(Yeah, yeah, I'm on vacation, and I was staying away from the library. Who knew I would stumble upon another computer linked to the internet and read what was going on at Behe's Test? So here I am trying to repair the damage. Who knew leaders of the ID movement could shoot themselves in the foot so many times? Oh yeah, we did.)
A very hearty, big "THANK YOU!!!" to our own, obsessive, compulsive Thought Provoker for finding and providing a link to Barry Hall's paper! I assumed that I would have to go to a college library and hope they carried the journal that Hall's paper was published in. It didn't occur to me that it would be online and for free. I suggest that anyone interested in pursuing this topic further, first read the paper. It's short, and despite the technical jargon, not that difficult to understand. But read it. Don't just scan it.
First, it turns out that Hall knew that there was already resistance to imipenem. He was trying to answer the question, if we continue using imipenem, will resistance increase?
These results predict, with >99.9% confidence, that blaIMP-1 will not evolve to confer increased resistance to imipenem.
Behe quotes this passage correctly, but then mis-paraphrases it as "achieve resistance." Why? Probably to try to keep things simple for his lay audience. Instead, his mis-paraphrase has caused a misunderstanding of what Hall was trying to do, making it look like Hall was wrong, and that Behe was wrong.
But Behe gets the interpretation of Hall basically right. From Hall's paper:
It is important to consider the effects of only one or two independent amino acid substitution mutations, because in nature mutations almost always arise one at a time, and each mutation must be fixed into microbial populations by selection….These results predict, with >99.9% confidence, that blaIMP-1 will not evolve to confer increased resistance to imipenem….
It is clear from this study that the risks associated with the presence of blaIMP-1 do not include the risk of evolving increased activity against imipenem.
Hall echoes Behe's point: If selection requires more than two unselected mutations, then it probably won't happen. And if Behe is right, then a double CCC (whatever he means by that) will never happen.
One additional note on Hall's paper: The only reason Hall thinks his prediction might be wrong is that his technique might not be sensitive enough to pick up resistance from one or two mutations:
That prediction depends on the sensitivity with which we can detect increased resistance in the laboratory. I cannot eliminate the possibility that increased resistance, below the level of laboratory detection, could be selected in nature.
Not from the possibility that three mutations occurred.
So did Behe interpret Hall correctly? Yes, even though he mis-paraphrased him.
Next question: Is Hall right? Thanks to Pez, we know that at least our own ID critic at large, Zachriel, agrees with Hall:
Many resistance genes evolve by single mutations. If it takes more than a couple of mutations (simultaneous, or each of which are not separately beneficial), then it is very unlikely nature will stumble on the solution. This isn't anything new.
Are there critics out there who disagree with Hall, Zachriel and Behe on this point? If not, then hasn't Behe established an edge to evolution (which it seems was already well-known, if we take Hall and Zachriel's word for it)?
All that's left to consider is Behe's second point, that more than two-binding sites require too many unselected mutations to be considered realistic.
(Now back to vacation. See ya' next week.)