This is the second imaginary conversation between Professor Michael Behe and Mike Gene. Again, I've done this without their permission, and I may be completely mistaken about how a conversation between the two of them would actually go.
Behe: Oh no. I'm back at Telicthoughts. Bilbo!!!
Bilbo: Hi Professor Behe. Sorry I had to drag you back here.
Behe: Why? Why are you doing this? Having imaginary conversations with people you don't even know. And you still haven't given up that whacko 9/11 conspiracy stuff. You really, really need help.
Bilbo: Probably. But if only you and Mike would have a real conversation about this stuff, I wouldn' have to imagine it.
Behe: Look, let me be clear about this: I respect Mike Gene very much. I think he's doing some very good work. However, I think he's very mistaken about the notion that rm + ns can account for all the evolution that has occurred since the first appearance of life on Earth. And I took the time to write two books explaining why. Nowhere has Mike attempted to show that I am wrong.
Mike: Yes, and I won't try to show it. You might be right. The problem is your approach. I think you've fallen for the bait of trying to prove that something is impossible. And that isn't what science is about.
Behe: But I'm not trying to prove the impossible. All I've tried to do is show that Darwinian evolution, when put to the test, produces very little positive evidence. That was the point of my starting with the case of Malaria. It's admitted by all that it is our best empirical case of of what Darwinian evolution can do, which isn't very much. It's only after this that I go on to explore the theoretical limits of Darwinian evolution in my "Two-Binding Sites Rule" chapter. So I'm not trying to prove the impossible or even the improbable. I'm trying to explain why the best cases of Darwinian evolution produce so little.
Mike: Nevertheless, you've freely admitted that Darwin was right about common descent, natural selection, and random mutation — at least up to the Species category. That's a very large admission. Even if Malaria is the best evidence we have of Darwinian evolution, it's still for a very small time frame, and we still don't understand all of the ways that novelty can occur in biology. By focusing all of your attention on the improbability of evolution accomplishing very much, you've missed the broader picture of why we think there is design. I would rather spend time working on the positive evidence for design.
Behe: I have no problem with your approach, Mike. In fact, as I stated at the beginning, I think you've done some very good, fruitful research. Though I don't respond to your blog, I enjoy reading it very much. However, unless we have some rational ground for not believing that unguided Nature can accomplish anything, I think the basis of your hypothesis rests on faulty grounds. You say that it seems reasonable to make a distinction between the origin of life and its evolution, based on the notion that we have a theory of how life evolved, but we have no theory of how life originated. All I'm doing is showing that we really have no theory of how life evolved, either. RM + NS falls apart, when observed closely. And this is explicitly or tacitly admitted by people such as Margulis and the Evo-Devo crowd.
But the same objection that you level at me can be leveled at you: Just because we have no current theory of how life originated doesn't mean that there isn't one. You're just assuming that there isn't one. But we've found that Nature can produce all sorts of things: stars, planets, elements, and according to you, the evolution of life. Why think it wouldn't be able to originate life?
Mike: But I don't try to prove that Nature couldn't produce life. I just note that there seems to be a rather large gap between what Nature can do and the origin of life. It could be that this gap isn't real, and that someday someone will figure out how Nature accomplished it. But then, after noticing the gap, I also note positive signs of design, and note that many of our design inferences are also based on these two points: Discontinuity and Analogy. And I think that justifies my "hobby", as I call it. I'm not calling it science. Just something I like to do in my spare time. I'm not demanding that the scientific community take me seriously. I'm not demanding that anybody take me seriously. I'm pursuing my front-loaded evolution hypothesis, and sharing what I find with those who are interested.
Behe: It's difficult for me to think that you aren't being a little disingenuous here, Mike. You publicly proclaim that you aren't doing science, yet you continue to try to find ways to test your ideas. If you aren't trying to do science, why so much emphasis on testing your "hobby?" Further, you even refer to your approach as "Inductive Gradualism," a clear reference to the scientific approach.
Bilbo: I hate to interrupt this fascinating conversation you two are having, but I brought you both here to discuss the evolution of the bacterial flagellum. Could we get back to the original topic, please?
Behe: Uh…I'm a little confused, Bilbo. You're the one controlling this conversation. Why are you complaining about where it's going?
Bilbo: Well, you see, I'm not really controlling it. I'm imagining what a conversation between you two would be like. So I depend upon what I understand of both your positions, and try to extrapolate from there. And you guys derailing the topic seems to be a predictable outcome.
Behe: Well, what else would you have us say? I think the evolution of the bacterial flagellum is far too improbable to happen without deliberate fine-tuning of the events that lead up to it, even though most of the flagellar components have precursor homologues.
Mike: And I'm pursuing my front-loaded hypothesis, and when the evidence of homology points toward evolution, I'm willing to concede the point.
Bilbo: I guess we'll just have to leave it there until you guys have a real conversation of your own.