Saturday, November 3, 2012

Neo-Darwinist Makes Major Concession that Behe is Right

Dennis Venema, a Christian Evolutionary Creationist (which means that he is a neo-Darwinist who is also a Christian) made what I consider to be a major concession: that Michel Behe is right about the limits of what neo-Darwinian processes are able to accomplish. Venema, while explaining the latest findings of Lenski's lab, stated:

"If indeed all five (or more) mutations needed for this transition to Cit+ in the LTEE were required simultaneously, we could be confident that the trait would never arise.

Put more simply, Behe is right that numerous mutations occurring simultaneously are too rare to expect in evolution.
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This was the essential point that Michael Behe was attempting to make in his book, The Edge of Evolution: that if more than two or three simultaneous mutations for the evolution of a feature were needed, then that feature would never evolve. After all of Venema's efforts at refuting Behe (and he's been at it for quite a while, now), he finally gets around to admitting that Behe is right: There is an edge or limit to what neo-Darwinism can accomplish.

In fairness, Venema goes on to state: "What he [Behe] has not demonstrated, however, is that evolution must proceed only by numerous mutations occurring simultaneously.

Perhaps Venema is correct. But it's difficult to know how anyone could ever show that evolution had to occur that way. There might, afterall, be some unknown evolutionary pathway where things proceeded, one selective mutation at a time. But I would suggest that the burden of proof is on neo-Darwinists to show that this is indeed the case and that the whole history of evolution can be explained by this process. To just blindly believe that it can be, without demonstration, requires one of the greatest leaps of faith ever known.

Venema thinks that it at least has been demonstrated in one case:

With the LTEE, we have direct evidence of what Behe defines as a “noteworthy gain-of-FCT mutation” occurring step by step, without the need for simultaneous mutations.

I'll be curious to see if Behe agrees with Venema's assessment.

4 comments:

HornSpiel said...

Bilbo, As I commented on the Biologos site: The burden of proof is on the challengers. Just one solid example of evolution proceeding in a non-step-wise fashion is all that's necessary.

Bilbo said...

Hi HornSpiel,

We have plenty of examples where multiple mutations are induced by intelligent agents through biotechnology. Would those count?

AdamT. said...

I don't really see any problem here. As I pointed out in my recent post, there has never been any documented increase (500 bits) of specified information in any single mutation that would indicate ID or IC. More on this can be read about here:

http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2009/05/statistics-biogenesis_01.html

Bilbo said...

Hi Adam,

For the moment, let's not worry about whether there is any evidence for ID The only question we are considering is whether neo-Darwinism is a well-proven scientific theory. (If it turns out that it isn't, this doesn't mean that ID is necessarily the only choice left. There are a growing number of atheists -- such as Thomas Nagel -- who doubt neo-Darwinism, but aren't about to give up atheism. They suggest that we look for other natural processes to explain how evolution occurred.)

So, if scientists are willing to admit that there is indeed an "edge" or limit to what neo-Darwinian processes can accomplish -- only so many mutations that have no selective advantage can be allowed in explaining how a given feature evolved -- then this places a burden of proof on the theory that it might not be able to meet. And to just assume that somehow neo-Darwinian processes did accomplish all of evolution is fine for a hypothesis, but not for what is supposed to be a well-proven theory.