There has been a minor brouhaha going on over a new paper published in Science that details precisely how a protein binding site that fits Michael Behe’s definition of irreducible complexity (IC) evolved through mutation and selection. The paper prompted an immediate response from Behe that struck me at the time as yet another highly dishonest example of moving the goalposts. Behe’s response was to claim that changes in protein binding sites that require multiple point mutations in order to function are not IC at all.
2) The authors (including Christoph Adami in his commentary) are conveniently defining “irreducible complexity” way, way down. 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.
When I read this my first thought was, “Wait a minute. Isn’t Behe’s entire 2004 paper with David Snoke about a protein binding site and how, allegedly, such a system could not evolve?” Of course, Behe was forced to admit in the Dover trial that the article showed no such thing, but still – for years, Behe has been claiming that protein binding sites are IC and now suddenly he says he “certainly” would not classify such a system as IC. Ian Musgrave, it turns out, had the same thought I did and has documented it at the Panda’s Thumb.
He digs up quotes like this, from the Dover trial. When asked if there were any papers in the scientific literature that argue for the IC nature of a complex biochemical system, Behe admits that none call it IC by name, but that his 2004 paper was about an IC system:
There are none that use that phrase, but as I indicated in my direct testimony, that I regard my paper with Professor David Snoke as to be arguing for the irreducible complexity of things such as complex protein binding sites.
Isn’t that interesting? Last November, protein binding sites were irreducibly complex; in April, he “certainly” would not call them IC. Or take this quote, also from his testimony:
So the point is that those little colored squares [amino acids] are enormously complex in themselves, and further the ability to get them to bind specifically to their correct partners also requires much more additional information. It is not a single step phenomenon. You have to have the surfaces of two proteins to match.
This is just another example of IDers moving the goalposts back as soon as a goal is kicked. Now Behe is claiming that a system can be kind of IC, but not really IC – sort of like being a little bit pregnant. But the I in IC stands for “irreducible” – a system is either irreducible or it is not. It can’t be kind of irreducible.