Monday, January 05, 2009

Kenneth Miller on Smoke and Mirrors and the DI

Kenneth Miller has some guest posts on the Discovery Magazine blog, the Loom. The first is called Smoke and Mirrors, Whales and Lampreys in which he discusses the claim by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute that Intelligent Design was misrepresented at the trial in Dover, in 2005. The post centers around the claim that Michael Behe's treatment of the irreducible complexity of the blood clotting cascade is different in his book than it is in Of Pandas and People.

Luskin writes:

So according to Miller, the treatment of the blood-clotting cascade in Pandas is "essentially identical" to the treatment of the blood-clotting cascade in Darwin's Black Box.

The problem is that Miller's claim is false. Behe's treatment of the blood-clotting cascade in Darwin's Black Box is much more precise than the treatment in Pandas, and in fact Behe made it very clear that he was limiting his argument for irreducible complexity to a particular segment of the blood-clotting cascade that had been well-studied and was well-understood.

Miller responds:

First, there’s a perfectly good reason why I compared the clotting treatment in Pandas to Darwin’s Black Box (DBB). They are indeed nearly identical, and that’s because Behe himself wrote both of them. Second, Behe actually did state that the entire pathway is irreducibly complex in DBB. Casey might have skipped over those pages, but I didn’t. Third, as a result, the absence of any components of the cascade in any organism is indeed a direct contradiction of Behe’s formulation of ID. And finally, even Luskin’s “irreducible core” has fallen apart as the result of the most recent research findings on the system.

The argument is somewhat lengthy and delves into what Behe meant. Miller is taking Behe's ideas in both sources and castigates Luskin for the very focus behind his complaint:

But there is something very strange, and even distressing, about Luskin’s contention that the obvious failings of the arguments in Pandas are somehow less important than the ones in DBB. Why is it OK to give high school readers an argument about the irreducible complexity of the entire cascade that you know to be false (as Luskin admits), just as long as you modify that argument in another book?


Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

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