Hello friends! Last night I gave a webinar for the Center for Inquiry on the Intelligent Design (ID) movement and its latest attempt to sow doubt about the validity of evolutionary theory and its ability to account for the origin and diversity of life. To wit, the book Darwin Devolves, written by Michael Behe, was published last year and championed by ID proponents as a substantial challenge for modern evolutionary theory. (It isn’t.)
In case you missed the presentation, here it is:
I would like to also provide links to some of the things I mentioned in the webinar, as well as give more credit where it is due. First, the important links:
- Review of Darwin Devolves in Science by myself, Josh Swamidass, and Richard Lenski.
- My review of DD in Skeptic Magazine. (Covers the finches and lemurs in detail.)
- My review of DD in AiPT! (Mentions other examples of adaptive innovation that DD ignores.)
- Lenski’s rebuttal to how Behe discusses the LTEE. (This is the first of a several-post series.)
- Article in Science on real-time evolution of new functions through gene duplication, which went totally unmentioned in DD, despite the fact that it clearly shows how evolution can do what he claims it cannot.
- My (and Art Hunt’s) original blog post on polar bear evolution.
- The original Wedge document, outlining the DI’s goal of remaking American society for the Christian Church. (backup link to a text version)
Now I need to give more credit to people whose work I made reference to:
- I credited Kenneth Miller with the work on the evolution of the blood clotting cascade, but Russel Doolittle actually did much of the scientific work that Miller later popularized.
- Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross have compiled an excellent early history of the DI. Read it here. And, if you can get your hands on it, Nicholas Matzke’s book, “But Isn’t It Creationism?” documents the origin of “Intelligent Design” as creationism playing scientific dress-up because of defeats in the US courts.
- Regarding the polar bear discussion, I had forgotten how much of a team effort it was to dissect just how incorrect Behe’s claims were. I remembered working until 3:00A.M. reading the Liu paper and analyzing Behe’s claims against the data in the paper myself, but I had forgotten about the discussion over at Peaceful Science that led me to do that. This, this, this, and this thread show how not just Art Hunt and I, but also Dave Carlson, Josh Swamidass, John Mercer, Andy Walsh, Curtis Henderson, Mikkel Rumraket, and several others (evograd, T_aquaticus, BJB Brandon) all worked together.
And now to correct a couple of misstatements that I made. They’re all minor, tangential, and do not in anyway undercut the main thrust of my presentation. It was a brand new talk, a very large crowd, and a format (zoom) that I am still not comfortable with, so I was amped up on adrenaline and misspoke a couple times. So in the spirit of honest transparency, I want to correct the record. But all in all, I am very happy with how the presentation has been received and I have many emails to answer.
- Phillip Johnson has died (and by all accounts was a kind and generous man). I knew that, but I inadvertently used the present tense when I referred to his affiliation at UC-Berkeley Law School. Also, he was usually called the “godfather” of ID, not the “father,” both by fans and adversaries, because he did not found the movement, but rather assumed de facto leadership in the late 1980s.
- In the Q/A, I accidentally said “Richard Paley,” when I meant to refer to William Paley, the 18th century theologian and philosopher. I knew that, too, and I actually prepared a couple of slides on the history of the concept of design in nature, mentioning Newton, Descartes, Boyle, Aquinas, and going all the way back to Cicero and the ancients, but these were cut for time.
- I got some details wrong about the founding of the Discovery Institute. First, I overstated the role of Phillip Johnson, who was more of an organizer for the ID movement itself and less involved in the DI. Second, the DI was not created out of whole cloth to promote Intelligent Design, but rather grew out of the Hudson Institute and was founded to promote a “rigorously God-centered view of creation, including a new science based solidly on theism.” The Hudson Institute is a conservative political think tank, thus emphasizing the political origins of the DI. I obviously regret this error since the reality proves my point even better that the DI is, at its core, a political group with an explicitly religious agenda.
- At certain points, I misspelled “Jonathan Wells,” “Phillip Johnson,” and the “McLean” court case in my slides.
- I mispronounced my friend Josh Swamidass’s last name. It is actually pronounced “Swamidass.” 😉
Once again I thank the Center for Inquiry for the invitation to tell this important story. -NHL