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Monday, August 22, 2005

The Marriage of Reason and (Michael Behe's) Nightmare 

In an uncharacteristic show of self-restraint, we managed yesterday to refrain from engaging in a protracted debate with a Daily Kos diarist who announced that "the best way for us to fight ID is to insist that God and evolution are compatible" -- to pretend, in other words, that a theory rooted in the wholesale rejection of teleology is in fact part of God's Marvelous Plan. Although we try to avoid saying so in public, we frankly have more respect for Southern Baptists, Catholic archbishops and the like, who at least have the common sense to realize that the forward march of science poses an implacable threat to their antiquated and increasingly frangible belief systems.

We were therefore highly tantalized by a recent post from Mike the Mad Biologist (whose blog, along with Acid Test, we would have plugged last week had we known of its existence). Mad Mr. Feldgarden pulls a Michael Behe quote from this morning's NYT, in which the author of Darwin's Black Box explains what it would take to disabuse him of his faith in Intelligent Design:
Dr. Behe, however, said he might find it compelling if scientists were to observe evolutionary leaps in the laboratory. He pointed to an experiment by Richard E. Lenski, a professor of microbial ecology at Michigan State University, who has been observing the evolution of E. coli bacteria for more than 15 years. "If anything cool came out of that," Dr. Behe said, "that would be one way to convince me."

Dr. Behe said that if he was correct, then the E. coli in Dr. Lenski's lab would evolve in small ways but never change in such a way that the bacteria would develop entirely new abilities.

In fact, such an ability seems to have developed. Dr. Lenski said his experiment was not intended to explore this aspect of evolution, but nonetheless, "We have recently discovered a pretty dramatic exception, one where a new and surprising function has evolved," he said.

Dr. Lenski declined to give any details until the research is published. But, he said, "If anyone is resting his or her faith in God on the outcome that our experiment will not produce some major biological innovation, then I humbly suggest they should rethink the distinction between science and religion."
Mad Mike heard the details of Lenski's research at a recent conference, and although he is forbidden to divulge them just yet, he seems quite confident that Mr. Behe's worst nightmare is about to materialize.

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