Tuesday, 30 November 2010

New downloadable resource - Information Argument Exposed

This includes an Introduction by Robert Saunders, BSc (Hons), PhD, a comparison of the claims made by C4ID with a modern science textbook and background details on Intelligent design.

Available from BCSE Downloadable Resources.

Debunking Corner - Intelligent Design - some background

Creationism in a cheap tuxedo
Invented as an attempt to avoid part of the US constitution
Here is a quote from Professor Norman Nevin OBE, the President of the Centre for Intelligent Design in Glasgow;
“You see the battle that is taking place at the moment is a battle between the veracity, the truthfulness of the word of god and that of science.”
This rather begs the question which side of the battle the C4ID is on.  The BCSE does not accept that there need to be a battle and indeed has members of several different faiths as well as those with none. 
The Wedge Strategy
The wedge strategy is a political and social action plan authored by the Discovery Institute, the hub of the intelligent design movement. The strategy was put forth in a Discovery Institute manifesto known as the Wedge Document, (pictured top left) which describes a broad social, political, and academic agenda whose ultimate goal is to "defeat scientific materialism" represented by evolution, "reverse the stifling materialist world view and replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions".  The strategy also aims to "affirm the reality of God."  Its goal is to "renew" American culture by shaping public policy to reflect conservative Christian, namely evangelical Protestant, values.
How Intelligent Design evolved
As Darwin might have said, light will be shed on the origin of ID if you google the words "cdesign proponentsists".
The story of these words is very enlightening and they have been referred to as the "missing link" between creationism and ID.  Early drafts of the book eventually called "Of Panda's and People" included the word "creationists".  After a landmark US court case ruled creationism as religious and so banned it from state schools someone changed the book into an Intelligent Design text book by doing a "search and replace" exercise on a computer.  They were obviously trying to replace "creationists" with "design proponents" but didn't quite get it right and the result was "cdesign proponentsists".
Here are the classic before and after paragraphs;
"Creation means that the various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc"
"Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact. Fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, wings, etc"
The first one is an early draft and the latter from the final version. 
Dover Trial Testimony
Kitzmiller vs Dover was a court case in the US which revolved around whether or not ID was creationism.  Here are some revealing comments from the judge in his decision;
ID and Religion
"Consider, to illustrate, that Professor Behe remarkably and unmistakably claims that the plausibility of the argument for ID depends upon the extent to which one believes in the existence of God." 
"As no evidence in the record indicates that any other scientific proposition's validity rests on belief in God, nor is the Court aware of any such scientific propositions, Professor Behe's assertion constitutes substantial evidence that in his view, as is commensurate with other prominent ID leaders, ID is a religious and not a scientific proposition."
Is ID science?
"First, defense expert Professor Fuller agreed that ID aspires to 'change the ground rules' of science and lead defense expert Professor Behe admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology. Moreover, defense expert Professor Minnich acknowledged that for ID to be considered science, the ground rules of science have to be broadened to allow consideration of supernatural forces."
"What is more, defense experts concede that ID is not a theory as that term is defined by the NAS and admit that ID is at best 'fringe science' which has achieved no acceptance in the scientific community."
"We therefore find that Professor Behe's claim for irreducible complexity has been refuted in peer-reviewed research papers and has been rejected by the scientific community at large."
Professor Behe is perhaps the best known proponent of ID.  He writes books and articles and does tours, he doesn’t do any actual ID research - well none that he tells anyone about anyway.  He toured the UK in November 2010 in conjunction with the C4ID.  Behe has previously dismissed such findings from the judge with comments along the lines that courts should not decide science.
It is interesting to observe that the case provided a controlled environment with ample opportunity for both sides to present their case fully and where rules of logic and evidence were enforced.  In this setting ID lost every single battle. 
More about ID from Behe's Discovery Institute colleague and Senior Fellow Michael Medved;
"The important thing about Intelligent Design is that it is not a theory - which is something I think they need to make more clear. Nor is Intelligent Design an explanation. Intelligent Design is a challenge. It’s a challenge to evolution."
Or here are Behe’s own words in the trial;
“There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” 
Perhaps you can ask for a list of the experimental work done by ID proponents in the four years since then?  We would be interested to see it.
Irreducible Complexity
Apart from the “information argument” that the C4ID is pushing and which we take apart above the other “sciency sounding bit” of ID is a claim that it is impossible for somethings to have evolved.  These things are are referred to as being irreducibly complex and this is one of Behe's favourite lines of attack on modern biology.
Here is the definition, from page 39 of his book "Darwin's Black Box":
"By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."
The claim that irreducible complexity disproves evolution falls down on many levels;
First of all biology does explain how such things can evolve.  In fact they were predicted by Nobel-prize-winning geneticist Hermann Muller in 1939 when he referred to them as “interlocking complexity”.  
They are known to evolve in one of several ways;
  • by deletion of parts rather than addition
  • by addition of multiple parts e.g. duplication of much or all of the system
  • by change of function 
  • by the addition of a second function to a part
  • by the gradual modification of parts.
For more resources on this topic look here; http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/behe.html.  
Behe delights in giving his audiences and readers the impression that this science simply does not exist and when pressed by people who know it does he avoids answering questions.  To see a detailed analysis of this in action have a look here; http://bcseweb.blogspot.com/2010/11/creation-watch-michael-behe-keith-fox.html.  
Even if we wanted to ignore all this evidence and pretend that evolution can’t explain irreducible complexity then the argument still fails as it is a  logical fallacy to take this lack of evidence that something evolved and then to conclude that only design might produce it.  
This is an "argument from ignorance". (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance
Furthermore, all the examples of irreducible complexity so far given by Behe have in fact already been shown not to be irreducibly complex anyway.  These include the mousetrap, the bacterial flagellum, protein transport systems and immune systems.
We even have a peer reviewed example of an irreducibly complex system evolving during the past 70 years (http://www.talkdesign.org/faqs/icdmyst/ICDmyst.html#how2eatpcp).
The Argument from Personal Incredulity
This is another logical fallacy at the very heart of Intelligent Design.  If an ID proponent can't imagine how something might have evolved, then, there you are then, it can't have evolved can it? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_ignorance#Argument_from_incredulity_.2F_Lack_of_imagination)
Here is an example from Alistair Noble on the video on the C4ID web site introducing ID;
"Living things contain a vast web of tiny nanotechnological machines and systems that bear all the hallmarks of engineering design.  It flies in the face of all our experience that such marvels of precision would emerge randomly and evolve through the many required intermediate stages, all of which would have to function properly."

This article and others is available from BCSE Downloadable Resources in the leaflet entitled "Information Argument Exposed".

Debunking Corner - C4ID versus Modern Science

We compare the claims of the C4ID with what is actually taught in a modern undergraduate biology degree

Not even a new claim
The claims made by the C4ID, despite their implications otherwise, are nothing new.  They have a direct antecedent in the claims of William Paley in his book Natural Theology in 1802 where he made his famous “watchmaker”1 argument. 
The claims made
The core of the C4ID argument as put forward by Dr. Alastair Noble is;
“In all our experience, information of this level of sophistication only comes from intelligent mind.  It is therefore a thoroughly scientific position to infer that the information in living things comes from an intelligent source and in scientific jargon that means making the inference to the best explanation.”
He states this in the introductory video on the C4ID website, about which we are told, “The Director of the Centre for Intelligent Design, Dr Alastair Noble, introduces the Intelligent Design debate. . .”
So let’s look at this claim from the point of view of what modern science actually teaches.  The Open University is world famous and teaches more people in more places than any other university in the world.
Mark Edon is one of our committee members and is half way through a BSc (Honours) in Life Sciences with the Open University and has just completed a course called Uniformity and Diversity2 which covers some aspects of this very question.  Let’s look at what the well established and readily accessible science says and contrast it with Dr Noble’s claims.  

This topic is covered in the text book “The Core of Life Volume 2” by Jill Saffrey (Ed), Melanie Clements, Jill Saffrey, Jane Loughlin, Judith Metcalfe, Ayona and Silva-Fletcher, of the Open University,  
“Genetic change can be brought about by a variety of mechanisms. These include small mutations involving changes in base sequences; changes in chromosome structure or chromosome number; and recombination (crossing over and independent assortment) between chromosomes.”3
Let’s look at these mechanisms in turn, from a lay person’s point of view, and see if science does know anything on this topic, which Dr. Noble regards as so mysterious.
The chapter introduction alone lays out before us a complete rebuttal of Noble’s view as follows;
“Here, we shall study some of these topics, examining them in detail at the level of DNA, and explore additional mechanisms that bring about changes in the genome. Genetic change — whether by mutation or by recombination — provides variation that enables organisms to adapt to a changing environment, and hence it is fundamental to evolution. What has become clear from intensive studies of prokaryote and eukaryote genomes is that, over time, these processes have resulted in the evolution of complex genomes. In this chapter we shall describe how DNA mutation and recombination is linked with the gradual evolution of genomes.”3 pp345
The actual science
The chapter gives us details on the structure of DNA, how replication occurs and some of the modern techniques used to study DNA such as the “Polymerase Chain Reaction” and other sequencing techniques before going on to discuss mutation as follows:  
“Mutations change the nucleotide sequence of DNA; they can be caused by a spontaneous damage event (resulting in chemical modification), a replication error or a mutagen (an agent that can cause mutation). Gene mutations that have a very subtle effect on a gene product are often a simple exchange of one base for another. More drastic changes may be caused by deletions or insertions of a nucleotide or a number of nucleotides.”3 pp359
Mutations can be characterised as one of the following types; transitions, transversions, frame-shifts and replication slippage.  Each of these generates new information.  We cannot understand why Intelligent Design advocates claim otherwise.
ID proponents only talk about mutations as being changes in individuals bases and then quote some rather off probability calculations to “prove” that such can never ever produce any changes that are useful.  In fact many creationists make the point blank claim that all mutations are deleterious.
In this text book we instead get a discussion of the likelihood of gene mutation in the mouse genome;
“Even in cells with fully functioning repair mechanisms, errors occasionally go undetected or are not repaired, and so give rise to mutations. Therefore, it is interesting to consider the rate of mutation per gene, and the total amount of mutation in an organism that is uncorrected by the cell. As an example, we shall take a small mammal such as mouse for this calculation. The mutation rate can be estimated by observing the rate at which spontaneous genetic changes arise in a large population of mice, or by screening for changes in specific proteins in cells . . . grown in culture. Both methods suggest an uncorrected error frequency of one base-pair change in 109 bp for each cell generation. Consequently, a single gene of 103 coding base pairs would suffer a mutation once in about 106 (i.e. 109/103) cell generations. Something of the order of 1012 cell divisions take place in the lifetime of a mouse. Thus, on average, every single gene would have undergone mutation on about 106 (i.e. 1012/106) occasions. The older the mouse, the greater the total number of somatic mutations in the body. This conclusion is true for all organisms.”3 pp365
As it is then pointed out in the text, when such a mutation changes the reproductive success of an individual  that carries it, the mutation will be subjected to natural selection.
“An individual carrying a particular mutation that leads to fewer than average progeny will decline in frequency.
What would happen to a rare variant gene sequence that increases the average number of progeny?
It would spread by natural selection. 
Consequently, the structure and function of genes are refined by mutations, and mutations provide the raw material for evolution.”3 pp 365
Next we learn about another type of genome change, that resulting from recombination by crossing over.  This is a process which happens during the formation of sperm or egg cells in humans and can result in huge diversity by effectively mixing existing genes.    However it can also go awry resulting in the generation of new information.
Transposons generate several kinds of effects; insertions and frame shifts produce mutations, replicative transposition increases the genome length, the presence of multiple copies of transposons can result in the initiation of crossing over that can lead to exchange of genes between chromosomes that would not otherwise cross over.
The textbook continues:
“. . . we explore how the genome can evolve to become increasingly more complex as a result of the combined effects of recombination and mutation.
By comparing the genomes of different organisms, we can infer patterns of genome evolution that have occurred in the past. This section explores one such pattern, namely, how the genome can expand by means of duplications; we consider both coding sequences and non-coding sequences. Evidence of genetic change over evolutionary time again reveals how genomes are dynamic entities.
Many genes in higher eukaryotes belong to a gene family — in other words, a set of genes containing identical or closely related nucleotide sequences. It is possible to trace the evolution of a gene family from a single ancestral gene by comparing the DNA sequences of its individual members. First we explore the origins of members of a gene family; second we look at the functions of members of such families; third we review the evidence that members of a family arose by gene duplication and divergence. Finally, we examine non- coding DNA and genome evolution.”3 pp375
First up is the expansion of gene numbers by unequal crossing over.
“Initially, the two genes would have indistinguishable activities, but mutations in one of the duplicated genes could be tolerated because the other copy would still be able to carry out the original function. Thus, duplications produce additional genetic material capable of evolving new functions.”3 pp376
Evolution of new genes then gets an extra helping hand such gene duplicates themselves generate as  stretches of such duplicated information make it more likely that such tandemly repeating genes cross over in future. 
Next we get a glimpse of part of the huge pile of evidence that exists which supports the theory of evolution.  

The diagram shows a scheme for the evolution of the oxygen-carrying proteins in vertebrates.
This agrees with the relationships seen in these organisms based on data from others fields.  If evolution were not true then there would be no reason why this should be so - unless the “intelligent designer” wanted these creatures to look like they evolved.
Next this textbook takes us through the two key lines of evidence that support the theory that the globin genes evolved in this way;
“Evidence that the β-globin gene cluster arose by repeated duplication and divergence is provided by a comparison of nucleotide sequences within gene families and between species. Although exon sequences remain closely related, intron sequences vary, and may even be quite unrelated. Further evidence that the two globin gene clusters arose by repeated duplication comes from the study of genes that cause the human disease thalassaemia.”3 pp 383
Just as an interesting aside at this point, you may be familiar with the common claims made by creationists that , unlike Darwinians they predict that “junk DNA” will have a function.  Well, here is real science on the subject;
“But what is the role of non-coding DNA? The presence of extensive amounts of it in eukaryote genomes (Figure 8.11) is still a puzzle for molecular biologists.One possibility is that the non-coding DNA has no function but is tolerated by the genome because of the absence of selective pressure to lose it. Another possibility is that non-coding DNA has a range of functions that so far have eluded molecular biologists. It is also possible that it has a completely different type of role in genome organization. Some of it at least has a physical role, such as the telomeres which protect the ends of chromosomes (Figure 8.4) and the centromeres, which are also composed of repetitive DNA, and which play a role in the separation of chromatids during mitosis (Chapter 7).”3 pp 383
Finally we are told about another feature of DNA that further explains the generation of new information.  Protein domains and exon shuffling.
Functional proteins are made from amino acid sequences, the content of which is taken from the DNA sequence.  Such DNA sequences are not continuous but consists of exons (coding for bits of the gene) interspersed with introns (non-coding sequences).  
A domain is a structural unit of a protein.  A part of the overall protein and sometimes we see that these domains correspond to the exons of the gene.  
This means that any of the mechanisms we have already discussed that might result in a shuffling of the exons can lead to a new protein.
“The appearance of related exons in different genes support the important hypothesis: many genes are assembled from exons whose products perform particular functions.
It is believed that the organization of DNA coding sequences as a series of exons separated by longer introns has greatly facilitated the generation of new proteins.”3 pp 386
As a last word from this excellent text book a little bit of scientific humility;
“It is impossible to devise experiments that would prove that many genes have been assembled from combinations of exons encoding proteins that successfully perform particular functions. However, as seen in this chapter, the processes of gene duplication, exon duplication and transposition do occur, and combinations of these processes could bring about exon shuffling.” 3 pp 387

3 The Open University publication “The Core of Life Volume 2” 2nd Edition 2007, Jill Saffrey (editor) chapter 8, “DNA and Genome Evolution”

This article and others is available from BCSE Downloadable Resources in the leaflet entitled "Information Argument Exposed".

Behe Coverage on The Pod Delusion

Episode 59 includes an interview with Leo Behe.

Episode 61 includes a report from Michael Behe in London.

C4ID’s Introduction to Intelligent Design: Part 10

The Centre for Intelligent Design website features a set of brief (sometimes very brief) pdf documents which collectively form an Introduction to Intelligent Design, credited as written by Dr Alastair Noble, C4ID Director. Collectively, these files form a pamphlet setting out C4ID’s manifesto for ID. Often these documents are written in a way that could be seen as persuasive to the uninformed. In general, the arguments used are those of ‘common sense versus rational investigation’, and the hoary old ‘argument from ignorance/incredulity’.
Part 10 of ‘An Introduction to Intelligent Design’ appears to be lifted from something written by Stephen Meyer (cited as: Dr Stephen Meyer, Director, Discovery Institute, Seattle, in the National Post, Canada, Dec 1st, 2005).
Meyer is the founder of the Discovery Institute. His biography at the Wikipedia page is informative: several of his qualifications derive from religious institutions, and none are in biology. His text misuses analogy quite severely:
DNA functions like a software program. We know from experience that software comes from programmers. We know generally that information – whether inscribed in hieroglyphics, written in a book or encoded in a radio signal – always arises from an intelligent source. So the discovery of information in the DNA molecule provides strong grounds for inferring that intelligence played a role in the origin of DNA, even if we weren’t there to observe the system coming into existence.
We know generally that information [...] always arises from an intelligent source’ is such a poor analogy, given what we know about how genetic information (and remember the use of the word ‘information’ here is itself an analogy used to make the understanding of genetics easier) can and does change, even within the timescales of experimental investigation. See Biological information does not require a ‘designer’ for my take on this.
I think Meyer’s text here ignores many hypotheses on the chemical origins of the chemicals of life, and the origins of genetic macromolecules.
Robert Saunders, BSc (Hons), PhD

Monday, 29 November 2010

C4ID’s Introduction to Intelligent Design: Part 9

 The Centre for Intelligent Design website features a set of brief (sometimes very brief) pdf documents which collectively form an Introduction to Intelligent Design, credited as written by Dr Alastair Noble, C4ID Director.  This pamphlet sets out C4ID’s manifesto for ID. Often these documents are written in a way that could be seen as persuasive to the uninformed.  On closer inspection, there is nothing new – the arguments are the same as those demolished in Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District.

Part 9 relies heavily on the writing of Paul Davies, who’s quoted in the first paragraph:
Living organisms are mysterious not for their complexity per se, but for their tightly specified complexity. To comprehend fully how life arose from non-life, we need to know not only how biological information was concentrated, but also how biologically useful information came to be specified.’
It isn’t particularly clear from this quotation what is meant by ‘specified complexity’,but see this article by my BCSE colleague Paul Braterman (Beacon Vol XIIV, No 2 pp4-6). Noble goes on to observe that the origin of genetic information is unclear (but of course science has several hypotheses), and revisits Bill Gates’ unsatisfactory (though of course it might of been satisfactory in its original context) analogy of genetic information as a software programme.
Essentially all Noble can come up with in Part 9 is that he cannot comprehend (presumably this reflects his scientific background as a chemist rather than a biologist) where this information has come from:
Now this poses a fundamental question. Where does this very complex and highly specific information come from? [I’ll give you a clue] All our experience tells us that information only arises from prior intelligence. The information in a letter comes from the mind of its writer. An article in a newspaper comes from the mind of the journalist who wrote it. The information in a PC comes from the mind of the software engineer who wrote it. There is no known example anywhere of functional information arising randomly or by chance. We only get information from prior intelligence.
This is a classic argument from ignorance. Bronze age goat herders can’t understand how the world came to be, so they write Genesis (which, bizarrely, some otherwise intelligent humans in the 21st century still believe!); Behe can’t understand the evolution of the bacterial flagellum, so a designer (aka God) must have done it. Noble cannot understand the growth and change of biological information through the history of life on this planet, so a designer must have done it. And I cannot believe, given his status as a lay preacher that this designer does not equate to hid God.
Noble finishes in fine, if illogical, style:
The origin of the information in DNA alone is sufficient grounds for proposing the Theory of Intelligent Design.
Er, not for this biologist it isn’t. It’s just intellectual cowardice.
Robert Saunders, BSc (Hons), PhD

Creation Watch - Michael Behe at Bournemouth

A report from Roy Thearle.

Bournemouth is a quaint Southern English seaside town with many Victorian buildings, parks and arcades; thus it was a very fitting venue for a presentation that consisted almost entirely of ancient arguments and moth-eaten relics.

Heavy traffic meant I arrived at the hall only a few minutes before the start, but I had enough time to check out the bookstall, which was purely ID material (Darwin's Black Box, Darwin on Trial, Edge of Evolution, God's Undertaker, Expelled and Exploring Evolution - the last of which I am now a proud owner, in addition to a copy of Unlocking the Mystery of Life) and note that the audience was mostly middle-aged or older, though there were a few students in attendance.

[The audience was was approximately 200, somewhat less than the 500 in Glasgow but Bournemouth is a much smaller place.]

Michael Behe was introduced at length by some-one who said he was David from theCentre for Intelligent Design, with the usual website plugs and a comment that some-one has likened Behe to a "slimy toad" on their blog. [Ed. comment: Would be right over the top if C4ID had a blog!]

Darwin's Black Box:
Behe got off to a stunning start when the PowerPoint presentation got stuck on the title slide, and he was left floundering around while it was fixed.  This sideshow was certainly more interesting than the next slide, which was Behe's disclaimer than his views are his alone and not shared by his colleagues at Lehigh University yada yada yada.  This seemed completely unnecessary to me, since Behe could simply have been introduced as the author of Darwin's Black Box without Lehigh ever being mentioned.  But perhaps he was fuelling feelings of oppression.

After a quick shot of a 2005 New York Times op-ed piece he wrote entitled Design for Living, Behe introduced his five point plan:
1) Design is not mystical but deduced from physical structures
2) All agree that life looks designed
3) There are structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution
4) Evolution rests on undisciplined imagination
5) There is strong evidence for design and little evidence for Darwinism
You may have noticed that the above treats evolution and Darwinism as interchangeable - this treatment continued throughout the presentation, and led to a very odd juxtaposition near the end. [1]

Step #1 started well with a method of detecting design: "You can infer design when parts appear arranged to accomplish a function". This was illustrated by a Far Side cartoon of a line of overweight jungle explorers, the first of which had been skewered by a trap, and the third of which was telling the fourth that that was why he didn't like to walk up front.  Behe's point was apparently that the trap depicted was obviously designed, and that the cartoon wouldn't work if you couldn't differentiate designed objects from 'undesigned' objects - which point is rather blunted by the cartoon working equally well if the first explorer is being entwined and eaten by a large snake.  As well as setting a precedent for many of the failures of logic that were to follow, this got me wondering whether Behe's objection to evolution as being grounded in imagination arose partly because he doesn't possess much imagination himself.

The slides continued with pictures of the Sawtooth mountains, the 'Old man of the mountain' rock formation and Mount Rushmore, and the long-familiar claim that design could be detected if you knew of a template that matched the object in question.  Unsurprisingly, Behe didn't say anything about a template against which life or DNA could be compared - possibly because the total lack of any such template immediately scuttles the argument.  Behe also claimed that the "strength of the inference [of design] is quantitative".  This might have been interesting if he'd actually quantified anything, or even suggested how it could be done, but he didn't, so it wasn't.

Step #2 was demonstrated with several quotes from the Behe's apparent nemesis,Richard Dawkins:
"Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose."

"We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose, such as flying, swimming, seeing, eating, ... [A]ny engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object."

"Natural selection is the blind watchmaker, blind because it does not see ahead, does not plan consequences, has no purpose in view. Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning."

Checking the full version of the second quote shows that Behe curtailed Dawkins' list. He omitted "reproducing". Draw your own conclusions.

[Ed. comment - the tired old creationist scam of quote mining one's adversaries, then using the quotes out of context - and usually heavily edited - to convince the gullible that biologists and geologists completely opposed to creationism somehow support creationisn. We've seen this deliberate deception thousands of times. One of the worst examples of this sort of deliberate dishonesty is the "documentary" Expelled DVDs of which were on sale during Behe's lectures.]

Step #3 looks like the meat of Behe's argument - structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution. Behe started out with Darwin's quote "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not have been formed by numerous successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find no such case." Nor, apparently, could Behe.

He started by redefining 'irreducible complexity' as being when a group of parts produce a function that the parts themselves cannot produce - a definition that not only differs markedly both from his original 'can't-remove-a-piece' definition and his more recent 'requires-unselected-steps' one.  Then we entered some form of time-warp, as Behe explained why mousetraps are irreducibly complex, and showed us all a diagram of the bacterial flagellum, stating "If it's missing [pieces], you have a broken flagellum."  Behe thinks "Irreducibly complex systems are big headaches for Darwin's theory", but neglected to say why, and failed to mention the many criticisms of his ideas that explain not only how irreducibly complex systems not only could and have been seen to evolve, but also that they would be inevitable.  Behe may have expected his audience to be aware of these criticisms though, since he stopped short of stating that irreducibly complex systems were the case Darwin hadn't found - an omission that undermined everything else he said.[2]

Behe then continued with a wave of quotes and pictures to prove that life was, like, wow, sooo complex, and sooo like tiny machinery, that... ...well, nothing. He made no attempt to explain why complexity was a structural obstacle, or why complex things couldn't evolve. He seemed to expect the audience to wallow in the same awestruck haze as him, believing that something that complex must be designed without ever bothering to connect any dots.

Step #4 was even weaker. Behe produced no evidence for anything - just a single opinion from Franklin Harold that “We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity (Behe 1996); but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” 
After likening evolution to Kipling's Just-so Stories, Behe opined that Harold's principle for rejecting Intelligent Design is that it involves extra-scientific philosophical implications - but didn't bother to produce any further quotes as justification, leaving open the possibility that Harold rejected Intelligent Design on the principle that it's merely creationism in disguise, and not worth discussing in any scientific treatise.

Finally, Behe covered Step #5. Or rather didn't cover it - Behe simply announced that it could be concluded from the previous four steps, despite no evidence for design having been presented, strong or otherwise. I will concede that Behe had produced little evidence for Darwinism.

Behe's next announcement stunned me. Behe actually stated that the strong positive evidence for intelligent design was that Richard Dawkins wrote about life having an overwhelming impression of being designed.

That's not strong positive evidence. It's not even evidence at all, it's an opinion.  Worse, it's an opinion about an impression! If Behe can't differentiate between evidence and opinion, or between appearance and actuality, then I'll never take his musings on Intelligent Design seriously, and I doubt anyone with any sense would either.[3]  I was thinking Behe couldn't do much worse, but he immediately proved me wrong - he said [paraphrased, because I was too staggered and he was too incoherent for note-taking]"Life must be designed because it looks designed, and if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, well then that's in-duck-tive reasoning and so intelligent design was a scientific argument and rationally justified."

The Edge of Evolution:

Next, Behe attempted to dissect Darwinism.  Behe said that common descent was interesting, but trivial because it doesn't explain the original ancestral organisms.  Natural selection is also interesting, but trivial because it doesn't explain how the selected variation occurs.  I was hoping to hear that Intelligent Design was interesting, but trivial because it didn't explain how to make pizza, but instead Behe announced that "The critical claim of Darwinism is the sufficiency of random mutation"[4].

That's a major problem.  Not a major problem for evolution, but a major problem for Behe.  Because Darwin never made any claims about random mutation, let alone about its sufficiency.  DNA wasn't even known to exist until after On the Origin of Species was published, and its genetic nature wasn't discovered until after he died.  All Darwin knew was that variation existed - he didn't know what caused it.  So when Behe juxtaposes random mutation and Darwinism, it's evident that Behe either doesn't know or doesn't care what Darwin actually wrote.  Furthermore, by accepting natural selection and common descent, and criticising only modern genetics, Behe is actually accepting Darwin's theory.  I hope that was worth waiting for.

Moving on, Behe started talking about malarial resistance in humans, and said that the genes for sickle-cell trait and thalassaemia aren't positive mutations - they're just broken in a fortuitous way.  He quoted Sarah Tishkoff: "Thus, the genetic variability maintained at the G6PD locus appears to be an example of a balanced polymorphism that, with the classic examples of sickle cell anemia and thalassemia, represents one of the best examples of natural selection acting on the human genome." and then blatantly engaged in bait-and-shift by exclaiming that this was "the best example of Darwinian evolution", disregarding all the examples that have been found in organisms other than humans.  I had intended asking for this to be clarified during the Q&A section, but after foolishly (gallantly?) surrendering the roaming microphone to a charming young lady who was being ignored by the microphone managers, I didn't get it back until just in time for them to cease calling for questions.  I did manage to speak to Michael Behe afterwards, and he admitted that there did exist better examples of evolutionary processes in bacteria.

Last of all, Behe characterised evolution as consisting of breaking things - illustrated with a story of how a broken bridge was useful in preventing opponents crossing a ravine - and claimed that the tiny fraction of helpful mutations are those that are degrading the genome; a claim that anyone who has read up on ApoA-1 Milano or Lenski's experiment will know to be complete bollocks.

Questions and answers:

1. The Q&A session got off to a bad start with a convoluted question about von Hagen, aplastic anaemia and seeding by three men thousands of years ago. I didn't understand it, and I don't think Behe understood it either despite David's attempted translation. But the attempted answer elicited an interesting point: when Behe talks about the complexity of the foundation of life, he doesn't seem to realise that the existing complexity of cellular structures are a result of billions of years of change, and that ancient cells may have been much less complex.

2. Threefold: suggested Behe was not working at the coalface, asked about Dover, and asked about the type-3 secretory system.  None of Behe's responses were satisfactory.  Behe claimed that he submitted papers to journals, but all he got back were immediate rejections because "we're not publishing anything by him".

[Ed. comment - well at least he is submitting papers; that's very unusual amongst creationists.]

Behe's account of the Dover trial were astonishingly counter-factual. He claimed that he had explained things reasonably, but that the other side had twisted the facts.  He excused the result as being because the plaintiffs produced an array of experts, while on the ID side there was "only me".  While Steve Fuller and Scott Minnich's testimony may have hindered the defence, I think they would object to being disregarded completely.  Behe said there was no evidence that Judge Jones understood the scientific arguments.  But even if that was the case - and it wasn't - surely it would be Behe's fault for not explaining them well enough?  He characterised the TTSS as sharing "not many, maybe a third" of its proteins with the bacterial flagellum, a value which is either backwards or extracted ad rectum.  Finally, he reiterated that irreducibly complexity was dependent on a system's original function and the TTSS could not therefore be a pathway to the flagellum - thus confirming that he neither knows nor cares about exaptation.

[Ed comment: the reader is yet again reminded that the creationists never ever admit to getting anything wrong. Their problem at Dover wasn't Jones. It was that the defendents (the Dover School Board) where a bunch of scientifically illiterate young earth creationist incompetents who lied repeatedly under oath.  The Discovery Institute jumped on the bandwagon before it realised what was going on - that the defence and its lawyers (The Thomas Moore Law Center) were hopelessly out of their depth.  The Discovery Institute's two senior people, Stephen Meyer and Bill Dembski, cut and ran before giving their testimony leaving Behe right up a certain creek without a paddle.  Behe's tale about an incompetent judge is a fabrication.  It was the defence that was incompetent.  Behe made a fool of himself at the Dover trial.  There is a simple cultural thing going on here - many Americans simply cannot stand loss of face.  They are in denial mode.]

3. In response to a comment about the best designs being simple, Behe said thatDarwinian evolution doesn't try out a few things and discard them if they fail.  I guess we can add extinction to the list of evolutionary concepts he misunderstands.

4. "If we evolved from monkeys, how come we've grown hair and not lost hair?"
This was asked by a young boy (who may have fluffed his line).  Both Michael Behe and David responded by pointing to their male pattern baldness.  Behe tried unsuccessfully to explain about chimp brains not being sufficiently understood to determine whether ours could have evolved from them.  Astonishingly, one of the microphone men asked for a round of applause for what he thought was a "perceptive question".

5. What is the spark that makes life work?  Rather than talking about vitalism or somesuch, Behe started explaining about protein-folding and the physical properties of amino-acids, and never got close to an answer.

6. How has the presumption of evolution hindered and/or helped science?  Behe admitted that comparative biology allowed us to use animals to investigate human biochemistry, but then said evolution was overmalleable and brought up Haekel's embryo images as an example of how textbooks could use anything as evidence of evolution.  Apart from the pretence that school textbooks are investigative science, Behe failed to remember that he supports common descent, and would expect embryonic similarity.

7. Are newspaper articles on science to be trusted?  No!

8. Is inductive reasoning the only argument for Intelligent Design?  Is it conclusive?  Could inductive reasoning be used to support evolution too?  Answer: Yes, as much as for any other theory, crickets chirping.

9. Commenting on research censorship, Behe said that although research grant boards often requested proposals for more innovative research than the usual minor advances, they always reject proposals to investigate if evolution is true.  I expect they also reject proposals to test if planets go round the Sun.

[Ed. comment - the Discovery Institute has its own research arm, the Biologic Institute, which, even with private money, hasn't come up with one iota of science. The creationists in the USA have billions of US$ available if they saw a "return on investment".]

10. Is antibiotic resistance a positive mutation?  Behe thinks "no", it's mostly caused by minor changes to protein shape that also reduces protein activity.

11. Behe definitely thinks that the malarial parasite was designed, but must be important for some aspect of the biosphere[5].  He also likened the dangers of malaria to those of cliffs, apparently realising that we have a much better options for avoiding falling off cliffs than we do for avoiding malaria.

12. Does incremental design look like evolution?  Behe dodged this one completely, saying it was a judgement call but "evolution is hopeless".  Behe also dodged the next question on what he meant by intelligence by saying that atoms and molecules aren't.

13. Asked about Australopithecus etc, Behe said they were uglier than us, but reconfirmed common descent.

14. Last question: Is Intelligent Design true because evolution is false?  No - Mount Rushmore shows that design can be identified.

And that was it.  A few people got their (new and old) books signed, though they had to run the gauntlet of some idiot[6] who was jabbering on about how life worked through appetites and that people got older because they wanted too.  Michael also had a long conversation with a home-schooling couple and their daughter who had been on TV and subsequently been accused of brainwashing[7].  Micheal agreed with them that she wasn't brainwashed, and I think I do too.

Summary of the Bournemouth presentation:

Apart from the last few minutes about malaria, Michael Behe's presentation didn't include anything new - just the same tired stuff about of mousetraps, irreducible complexity and flagella.  Most of it could have been taken straight from the Dover trial transcripts, and he spoke as if none of the criticisms or refutations of his ideas had ever existed.  He was very vague, and on the few occasions that he made specific points, he almost always failed to follow through - he didn't say that irreducible complexity couldn't evolve, he didn't say that cellular complexity couldn't have evolved, he didn't say how to infer design.  It was as if he was afraid to commit himself to anything in case it came back to bite him.

Nor was the Q&A session very impressive.  Most of his answers consisted of long rambles on unrelated subjects.  His criticisms of evolution were either off-target or empty, and most of the time he seemed no more educated on the subject than the audience.

[1] Yes, this is a blatant attempt to get you to keep reading
[2] Apart from his pronouncement that the bacterial flagellum is "made up of proteins, which are tiny machines in their own right", which just looks wrong.
[3] A sub-sentence ripe for for quote-mining.
[4] Emphasis his.
[5] Preventing overpopulation by humans?
[6] It wasn't just me that thought this - a number of people were rolling their eyes and making side-comments, while Micheal succeeded to remain polite despite not being able to get a word in edgeways, but the guy just wouldn't shut up.
[7] And apparently they're on TV again on Tuesday night, 30th November 2010

Creation Watch - Michael Behe in Leamington Spa

On 20th November 2010 a BCSE member and a school science teacher went along to one of Behe's UK presentations (at North Leamington High School).  She was not impressed by either his science or his intellectual honesty.

It appears that he was accompanied by a minder who described himself as a lawyer.  The venue was full to capacity with the event attracting some 300 people, nearly all of whom appeared to be religious and pro-Behe and, worryingly, included students from the University of Birmingham.

Behe faced very few hostile questions.  Our BCSE member also overheard talk during the coffee break which give a very interesting insight into the real motivations of people there;
“I overheard somebody saying “we're advertising this website to lots of heads of science, it's good because it only has the secular evidence.”” “I told him I worked in a school and asked what the website was. He said it's 'the world around us', 'virtual museum'.”
This is almost certainly part of the web site of the British young earth creationist organisation Genesis Agendum.   Andy McIntosh of Truth in Science has long been involved in Genesis Agendum.   As we say, Intelligent Design is just a front for creationism.  Our BCSE member was also told that the Genesis Agendum web site is being pushed at schools.  Still, what was on sale during the break was clearly pure Intelligent Design material.  They included Behe's 1996 book Darwin's Black Box, the DVD Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed, John Lennox's book God's Undertaker, has science buried God, Behe's 2007 book Edge of Evolution and the book Explore Evolution.  The latter is intended to be a supplementary text book and at the end of the evening the organisers pushed it as particularly useful for pupils wanting to argue with their biology teachers.

Specifically the person doing the pushing and claiming this appears to have been the lawyer acting as Behe's minder. The US National Center for Science Education and the BCSE have has shredded the "science" in this book - see here.  It is not suitable for schools.

Needless to say, no mention was made of what biology teachers thought of Explore Evolution.  The BCSE is well aware of the history of this dubious book in the UK – it is the successor of the discredited book "Of Pandas and People" and has been distributed to school libraries by Truth in Science, an openly young earth creationist organisation.  The BCSE has an open letter to school librarians warning of the book.

The book (British edition) has also been reviewed by BCSE member Ashley Haworth Roberts.  He doesn't think much of it either.  It has been described as "creationist nostalgia", so old and tired are its arguments – see the National Center for Science Education's web site here and here.

Our BCSE member concluded that Behe is “a slippery character” who answers questions like a politician – i.e. he doesn't. Her view was that the Questions and Answers session was more telling than the presentation. He doesn't answer well and sounds flustered a lot of the time.  He takes far too long to answer each one and waffles on and repeats himself dreadfully.  He appears flustered unless the question is friendly one.  However, the entire event was as slick and well done.  At the Leamington Spa presentation those on the floor were either able to ask him questions directly or through written questions submitted during the coffee break.

The set up is important for those expecting to go to future Behe presentations. Our BCSE member believes that people should write their questions in advance “so that they can use the questions from the floor as an opportunity to tackle him about the fact he hasn't answered the previous question properly". As she says, he “answers like a politician”.

Our BCSE member suggests that “if you know of anyone that may be going (even from other places like secular societies) please let them know they'll need at least two people per question or one verbal for every written question to deal with the very annoying fact that Behe does NOT, NOT NOT answer the questions and will ignore salient points. Therefore you'll need the original question plus someone to pick him up on that.” “The kindest thing to say is he's not a character you'll warm to. He takes too long to answer questions and waffles, repeats himself and gets flustered by hostile questions.

She thinks it is “useful to have the full evolutionary pathway of the bacterial flagellum (see Talk Origins) plus something about genes not all being degenerative and know a bit about malarial parasite resistance. His argument was all were degenerative in some way and he used mutations on haemoglobin gene leading to sickle cell, alpha and beta thalasemia, and hereditary persistence of foetal haemoglobin. Then point mutations on G6PD gene leading to anaemia and something else. Basically try and get in a question about mutations that aren't degenerative. I could only think of nylonase and didn't have time to ask it.

My written question was that the bacterial flagellum and many other things he stated are Irreducibly Complex in his book have since been shown not to be. Take away parts of the bacterial flagellum and you get a different but equally functional system called the type 3 secretory system. Where does that leave the argument for Intelligent Design? My question was put with a similar one - hasn't Ken Miller already shredded the bacterial flagellum argument?

Behe's answer astounded me. He referred to Ken Miller and that fact he now wears a mousetrap tie pin. Miller had "misrepresented" his definition of irreducible complexity to mean if you took away parts it wouldn't function whereas (I think) he actually meant it doesn't function as a bacterial flagellum. Behe ignored the fact that my question clearly said take away parts you get a functioning secretory system. He seemed to be saying that the bacterial flagellum could only have evolved from a bacterial flagellum. It could never have been anything other than a bacterial flagellum.

Comments from the BCSE

BCSE member Professor Paul Braterman comments:

This is a special case of the general creationist tactic of redefining terms so narrowly that the counterexamples don't count.  Like saying that fossils aren't really "intermediate forms" because they don't represent the actual split, or that any example of information creation doesn't count because it isn't sufficiently complex.  Here, Behe says that the precursors to the BF don't count because they weren't flagellae.  By this criterion, anything is irreducibly complex because it didn't become exactly what it is until the step at which it became exactly what it is.

Counterexamples to his absurd claim that no novelty has ever been observed in experiments on evolution include:

Multiple Duplications of Yeast Hexose Transport Genes in Response to Selection in a Glucose-Limited Environment http://mbe.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/15/8/931

Historical contingency and the evolution of a key innovation in an experimental population of Escherichia coli (citrate-using variant)http://myxo.css.msu.edu/lenski/pdf/2008

I find this typical of ID-Creationist reasoning.  They pose a real problem.  They are offered a solution. They then redefine the problem until it becomes in principle insoluble.  For Behe, the by now well known steps in the evolution of the flagellum are as irrelevant as Miller's stepwise evolution of the mousetrap, because the problem is redefined so that nothing but the complete flagellum (or Behe's own mousetrap) would count as a solution.  Just like Behe's YEC colleagues, who dismiss the rich fossil record of hominid evolution on the grounds that we cannot show that this or that specimen was an actual intermediate form.

Behe does indeed say that until it became a flagellum, it was not functioning as such, and so its flagellicity (if I am allowed to coin such a term) is indeed irreducible.  Fair enough, but he cannot have it both ways.  If (definition A) irreducible complexity merely means that all parts must be present for a feature to fulfil its function, the flagellum is indeed irreducibly complex, but this trivial fact presents no challenge to the science of evolution.  However, if (B) irreducible complexity means that something could not possibly have arisen by the natural processes of variation, duplication, and selection, then the work that our BCSE member mentions proves that the systems that Prof Behe points to with such confidence are not irreducible at all.  Unconsciously perhaps (I'm being as kind as possible), Prof Behe and his followers slide from one definition to the other, committing the familiar fallacy of equivocation.  The bacterial flagellum is irreducibly complex under definition A, but definition B says that nothing irreducibly complex can emerge by natural selection, therefore the bacterial flagellum could not have emerged by natural selection.  My car is a lemon, lemons are yellow, therefore my car is yellow. I'm afraid that's all there is.

The Q & A Session

More Questioning of Michael Behe.

A question from the floor asked “Doesn't popular culture see support for Darwin everywhere – e.g. the eye written up in National Geographic.  What is the answer to evolution from Intelligent Design?”.  Behe answered that “these things (evolution) are just Just So stories.  It's at the molecular level that things grow up.  The eye example is repeated in National Geographic from an essay first written by Darwin.  It's just some story given to suckers [yes he said suckers] who don't know the difference."  He then referred to a paper where the final line of the abstract was most studies of recent evolution involve loss of traits (back to the old no new info argument). He concluded we don't have a clue how novel traits could have evolved.

Question (from the floor): "Is Intelligent Design a theory or a hypothesis in which case how can you test it?"
Answer from Behe: "A theory - a general explanation". "It needs to be falsified."  He then asked which philosopher had said things needed to be falsified - very worryingly a lot of people were able to say Popper so they've either got scientists in or have pushed the philosophy angle well.  Behe continued that Intelligent Design can be falsified and lots of people have been trying (he forgot to add the word successfully).  He then went on to the work of Richard Lenski on growing e coli and putting it in fresh cultures, etc..  In 50,000 generations of e coli no beneficial mutations were reported.  All mutations are breaking genes (again it is worth noting how often he pushed this point) or turning off genes.  The system is degenerative.  Behe said that Intelligent Design would be falsified if Lenski got e coli to develop an irreducibly complex system.  Lenski hasn't, he hasn't even got part way to something like a bacterial flagellum e coli as mutations are degenerating.

Question (written): Hasn't Judge Jones and the Kitzmiller (Dover) trial killed Intelligent Design.
Behe's answer: The gist of it was (he went on for ages) Jones is a lawyer and has a degree in English.  In his summing up and in everything he's written he's relied on what he's been told by his advisors (scientific) and briefs.  He's become a celebrity because of it and appeared in magazines, etc..  This is a philosophical issue, not science.  Jones couldn't have found for Intelligent Design because people didn't want him to.  Basically Jones relied on expert evidence because he's not a scientist.

[This is astonishing, The founder and driving force behind the Intelligent Design movement, the very man that Behe worked with in the 1990s to develop the Wedge strategy, the very man who argued in Darwin on Trial that evolutionary biology is bad science, is a lawyer with a degree in English.  Step forward Phillip Johnson.  Note carefully the title of the book.  Johnson acted as both judge, prosecution lawyer and jury.  The creationists/fundamentalists love this sort of rhetoric because they thing those that don't agree with them are basically criminals.]

Question (our BCSE member from the floor): "Weren't all his scientific colleagues in agreement with Jones, weren't most of the scientific community agreed it was religious and secondly why were there still no open peer reviewed papers supportive of Intelligent Design in the literature."

Behe's answer: He answered the second question first saying you couldn't publish a paper about Intelligent Design unless you said it was silly or nonsense because of (see above Jones answer).  He would be publishing a paper soon in Cell.  Before he got chance to answer the first part of the question, his minder stopped him on the grounds that only one question could be asked.

Question: "Why if there is increasing evidence for ID why do scientists argue against it?"

Behe's answer: A reason is sociological.  "Bad blood between science and religion."  Scientists don't know much about Intelligent Design, he claimed. [They do.].

Question: "How close does the Haldane dilemma (HD) come to falsifying evolution?"

Behe's answer: He told us the HD deals with the number of beneficial mutations needed for a mutation to spread and take hold.  Haldane has calculated the number of mutations that must take hold to build a structure is unsustainable - too high, particularly in larger species.  Because they could not reproduce quickly enough to spread the mutation, it requires that all organisms without the mutation would have to die to allow that to happen.

Question: "Is it possible to believe in ID but not God?"

Behe's answer: "Complicated but yes".  Some people (a group called the Raelians) believed space aliens were the designer or time travellers.  Behe thought that when taken with history and theology, it was God.

Question: "What is his reaction to theistic evolution - God did it via evolution."

Behe's answer: Theistic evolution is a fuzzy phrase.  It's the idea that God made the universe with potential through laws God made and God knew life would result and that chance alone and natural selection were sufficient.  He disagreed.  Chance will not lead you to what we've got even with the helping hand of natural selection.  Evidence backs up Intelligent Design, according to Behe.

Question: "SETI applies algorithms to stuff from space to ascertain if intelligence behind them. Why are we not happy to apply those same algorithms to RNA and DNA when they clearly signal intelligence."

Behe's answer: Some people just don't want there to be a God or Intelligent Design.  Some people think the current evolutionary theory can explain biological complexity.

Behe's PowerPoint Presentation

As for Behe's PowerPoint presentation, one of the first arguments seemed to define what Intelligent Design is.  It showed a cartoon of a man being caught in a trap.  Behe suggested that we can recognise that the trap is designed. “Is it a religious conclusion?  No.  It has separate parts and is arranged to fulfil a function.”  Basically Behe argues we detect design.  “Intelligent Design is based on strength of inference.  It is quantitative.  The more parts we have the more precise their function the more confident we are they're designed.”  Design is not mystical, he suggested.  It is deduced from physical structure of a system.

Behe then went on to point out that everyone agrees aspects of biology appear designed, quoting from Richard Dawkins' book, The Blind Watchmaker, that complicated things give the appearance of being designed for purpose; “Dawkins believes this happened by evolution.  Why does Dawkins think they look designed.  Is it aesthetics (flowers pretty) or are puppies designed to look cute?  No Dawkins gives engineering reasons.  Living bodies look designed.  Knowledgeable engineera would look at the structure and see purposeful arrangement of parts.  Even Dawkins agrees.”

Behe's view is that the appearance of design is quantitative (worth remembering that as it seems to be his only scientific rationale – he didn't define how much was enough for design though). "Even Dawkins appreciates appearance of design is overpowering".

According to Behe, this was also addressed by Darwin.  If a complex organism could not have been formed by numerous successive and slight modification evolution falls down.  Natural selection is gradual, each step a small improvement.  If a biological system looked like it improved in large leaps it would not look like evolution.  It would be design.  What sort of system looks like it couldn't be put together by evolution?

Then he got to irreducible complexity being something of a system of different parts.  Parts interact to the same effect.  No part stands alone.  Therefore evolution could not produce it.  Astonishingly after the Intelligent Design fiasco at the Dover trial, he went on to repeat the old saw of the mousetrap.  The number of different parts couldn't function alone. How could you evolve a mousetrap.  You could start with the wooden block and hope the mouse tripped over then add bit to help it trip.  Ah, how Behe chuckled at that.

He claimed that the evidence of irreducible complexity in cellular and biochemical systems is all over the place – it is difficult now to find anything that is not complex. Behe then rolled out the other old saw - the bacterial flagellum.

Behe argued that people still trying to find out how the bacterial flagellum is put together remove any one part and it doesn't function.  People look at the bacterial flagellum and realise it's a machine.  Are other things like that?  Yes, all over the place, Behe added.  He then went on to a 10 year old copy of the journal Cell which had been devoted to macromolecular machines. He showed chapter headings like cell coding protein machines, polymerase and replicase machines, etc., etc..

Next we had a picture/diagram of a cilium-acts like an oar in eukaryotic cells.  Behe pointed out it had been published in a journal of nanotechnology.  We then had a bit about borgs in star trek (they are half human half machine, inject nanotechnology into others to make them borgs).  We are, according to Behe, all borgs because we're all run by complex nanotechnology which must have been designed.

[Well, if these machines are, indeed, designed, there also must be a supernatural manufacturer/assembler of them. Behe appears not to address this problem. Indeed, BCSE fails to understand that if the process of Intelligent Design takes place, when does it happen, how often does it happen, how is it implemented and where can we see the process in operation today. Of course, it is all very odd for the Intelligent Designers that Intelligent Design is never observed happening today.]

Behe then went on to claim that Grand Darwinian claims rest on undisciplined imagination, claiming that we now we now have proof Darwin does not explain life.  Evolution is Just So stories.  Evolution has been fruitless in description of complex life.

Behe believes that many reject Intelligent Design on principle rather than evidence; it has a philosophical implication, therefore people shy away from it.  Behe says he understands that so he suppresses his beliefs and just follows the science.  The bottom line, though, is that there is, in his view, still strong evidence for design, little for Darwinism.

Then the Powerpoint presentation moved on to a duck, asking what it is.  “It's a duck.”  Behe argued that philosophers know two modes of reasoning.  The inductive argument shows it is a duck, asking whether design is philosophy or science?  Inductive reasoning is the use of established facts to draw conclusions.  This kind of logic is used in science.  According to Behe, we use the same inductive reasoning when see something that looks designed to say it is designed.  Inductive reasoning is used in science-ergo Intelligent design is is science.  Hence Intelligent Design is rationally justified, not faith based.
He then went on to his book Edge of Evolution.  A key issue, according to Behe, is where it is reasonable to draw line between what is designed and not.  Darwinism is a multipart theory, with 3 major issues.
1) Common Descent.  That' according to Behe, doesn't tell us where we come from or how past organisms give rise to present.  Therefore it is interesting but trivial.
2) Natural selection - species might change.  He doesn't argue with notion strongest will survive and pass on genes but natural selection is no more than interesting but trivial.
3) Random mutation is controversial.  We can't investigate because evolution takes a long time and lots of generations, but in last ten years we've learnt about the malaria parasite.

Behe went on to discuss how mutations that have arisen to give resistance in the form of the sickle cell, adding a list of various mutations that confer protection against malaria.  All helpful mutations are degenerative and have side effects.  Most 'good' mutations are the result of throwing away or breaking of genes, he claimed.  He referred to it as random mutation in a china shop.  "We have a genome full of finely tuned machines and random mutations break them."  His analogy was decreasing the wind resistance in your car by breaking off the wing mirrors.  His point is that so called beneficial mutations are destructive or degenerative.

He then presented a sort of bar divided up - with those at the top that he would say were obviously intelligently designed (the big bang, cells, bacterial flagellum, etc.), a smaller section at the bottom with things that clearly were evolution (the strongest survive, etc..) and a grey area bit in the middle that he called the edge of evolution.