Monkey Trials go on and on

February 25, 2019

In 1993 I participated in series of debates held in Dallas on the topic of evolutionary theory, and whether the notion of “intelligent design” disproved the principle tenants of Darwinian theory. The meeting was put together by the Foundation for Thought and Ethics in Richardson TX.  I took part with a good deal of trepidation, since I was aware that the Foundation was a religious organization with strongly anti-evolution viewpoints. I was convinced to do so as I knew the scientists who were  the “pro-evolution” side, and I was aware that they had solid scientific credentials. 

The presentation that I did was based on observations of the evolution of the immune system, and I argued that there were many primitive immune systems throughout the animal kingdom, and therefore there is no need to invoke an intelligent designer to explain the complex immune systems that mammals possess. My opponent, Dr. Michael Behe, a biochemist from Lehigh University was having none of it, and would not accept the relevance of primitive immune responses, but rather claimed that the immune system is so complex that it had to have had a designer.

A quarter of a century later Behe has published a book, Darwin Devolves , (HarperOne, 2019; reviewed in SCIENCE 363{6497}:p590, 2019) in which he continues to push this totally unsubstantiated concept, behaving as if the many intermediate examples of incomplete, but functional immune systems had no relevance to the argument.  Behe continues to doggedly plunge forward, even though these gaping holes have been pointed out to him on many occasions, but he continues to make the same arguments that he has made for years.

I will say that the proceedings were conducted professionally, and the speakers were by and large civil and polite to one another, even when they were combative. However, years later, I remain at a loss to understand how Behe, obviously and intelligent person who is well-versed in scientific discourse can cling to notions that are rejected by virtually the entire scientific community.


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