Complex biochemical systems slap Behe upside the head

Ian Musgrave does a wonderful job explaining the recent Science paper on the evolution of hormone binding sites. This is the work that Behe has called “piddling”, and claims that it has no relevance to the evolvability of complex biochemical systems. Ian takes this idea apart with a quick tour of the wandering goalposts of irreducible complexity:

Behe and the Discovery Insitute have reacted quickly and negatively to this paper. But in doing so they display a curious amnesia. Behe says:

I certainly would not classify their system as IC. The IC systems I discussed in Darwin’s Black Box contain multiple, active protein factors. Their “system”, on the other hand, consists of just a single protein and its ligand.”

Yet this “system” is precisely the thing that Behe uses in his exemplar for the Behe and Snoke paper, the binding of DPG to haemoglobin. And Behe has said in testimony to the Dover trial that the Behe and Snoke paper on evolution of binding sites is about irreducible complexity. So if the evolution of the DPG binding site (where you only need two mutations to make a functioning DPG binding site) is an example of IC, then the evolution of the aldosterone binding site is also.

Poor Behe. The man continues his ever-accelerating slide into the land of pathetic jokes.

RU486

After I summarized how Plan B contraception works, I’m still getting letters confusing it with RU486. RU486 induces abortions. Plan B does not. RU486 is the opposite of Plan B.

Remember that what Plan B is is an artificially high dose of progesterone (it actually uses a progesterone analog, but it’s effectively the same.) Progesterone is a hormone that maintains the uterine lining in a nice, rich, spongy, receptive state, and it also suppresses another hormone, LH, that is what triggers ovulation. Plan B keeps the uterus primed for implantation, but tells the ovary to hold its fire and not release an egg.

RU486 can’t get much different. It’s a compound, mifepristone, that antagonizes progesterone—it binds to progesterone receptors and blocks their function, so that it looks to the cells as if progesterone levels have all all dropped to zero. The cells of the uterus, whether implantation has occurred or not, are tricked into menstruating right away, shedding the uterine lining and anything growing in it.

Now I personally think RU486 is a fine idea and a perfectly reasonable and relatively safe way to induce an abortion, and I think it ought to be legal and available. However, it is nothing like Plan B. Plan B is a completely separate issue from any argument over the ethics or utility of abortion.

Make-work for creationists

Creationists are always carping about that darned methodological naturalism and how we don’t make room for supernatural explanations. How about if we make a deal: we’ll reserve the boring ol’ natural explanations for things like Tiktaalik, and the creationists can move on to bring their deep knowledge of the supernatural to bear on more relevant questions, like Divine Evolution? That should keep them occupied for a while.

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Now they’ve done it—they’ve got the Royal Society angry

There will be a webcast by Steven Jones tomorrow at 1730 GMT, titled “Why Creationism is Wrong and Evolution is Right” (ooo, nice sharp title), for anyone interested. I think that means it’s going to be on at 11:30AM CST, unfortunately…I’ll be in class. Even though I’m going to have to miss it, it sounds like the Royal Society is gearing up to pound on creationism, which is always a good thing.

Where have I been?

It’s been a long day for me—I made yet another of those long drives into Minneapolis and back. It was worth it, though. We had the first meeting of a new group, Minnesota Citizens for Science Education; I think it’s going to be a useful resource for the state. It consists of several of us college professor types, plenty of K-12 educators, and a few business people, and we’re all going to be working together over the next few months to put together information to further the cause of good science teaching in Minnesota.

Details will have to wait, though. We’ll be aiming for a formal announcement in the Fall, with a public meeting on the topic at about the same time. Give us some time to get organized.

Isn’t it nice how crazy organizations like the Discovery Institute and Answers in Genesis are inspiring scientists and educators to get together and work to help our kids learn science better?

Hey, can’t a fellow even spend one day away from the computer?

Man, I step away from the ol’ blog for a day, and what do I get? A rash of the right-wing dingleberries. Come on, everyone, ignore them, they’re nuts.

I do notice a few things, though. My post was about the concern that we would use nuclear weapons against Iran in an unprovoked attack. Read the wingnut comments, and what do we see?

  • A great deal of pussyfooting around the issue. None are coming right out and saying that nuking Iran is justifiable. How about stating clearly that you agree that while Iran is a deplorable mess, you find the idea of using our nuclear arsenal against it indefensible? Maybe we all agree more than you think.
  • Attacks on Seymour Hersh’s credibility. OK, let’s assume he’s all wrong. Does that mean you think the idea of nuking Iran is insane and not something our government would do? Then please write to your congressman and tell them that you, a good Republican, want them to make sure that Crazy Liar Hersh’s predictions don’t come true.
  • Bizarre, idiotic arguments that we’re in favor of kissing Iranian butt. Enough said; that kind of stupidity doesn’t even need to be answered, as it is simply ridiculous and requires a gross misreading of everything every reasonable liberal, left-wing person has said.

As for those demands that the Left needs to provide constructive solutions…did you people even read the Hersh article? He talks about the diplomatic solutions right there, all the stuff that the sensible people are proposing. As turnabout is fair play, what I’d really like to see is the right-wing solution that does not involve large bombs and tens of thousands of dead civilians. If anyone has a dearth of solutions in this situation, it’s the knee-jerk warmongers.

Flibbertigibbet Dembski

Now he’s moving again, from the prestigious Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville to the eminent Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

If you ask me, they’ve both got “theological” and “seminary” in their name, so who cares? He’s moved from one dunghill to another.

We know the movie sucks

A few months ago, I saw the movie, What the bleep do we know? at the library. I checked it out. I thought it might be worth dissecting for a blog post. I watched it. I wanted to lie down afterwards and pour lye in my ear until it dribbled out my eye sockets, just to scour the stupidity out of my brain. It’s this horrible pseudo-profundity delivered by quacks, gladhanding physicists who think being in a movie makes them rockstars, and a dead Atlantean warrior, all stitched together with a boring plot about a deaf photographer searching for meaning in her life. The whole thing was so dreary and superficial that I couldn’t work up the energy to even complain about it, and did my best to forget it.

Unfortunately, The Disgruntled Chemist had to remind me. At least we share the same low opinion of that piece of mushy dreck.