What Care I For Evidence, Peasant?

A reader sent me an article from Nature Immunology a couple of weeks ago – it’s about the part that immunology played in the Dover trial, and very interesting it is. Immunology and the stacks of evidence for how it evolved blew Behe and his black box out of the water. There’s a nice illustration of a tall pile of books with another thick pile of papers on top of it; the caption reads “We can look high or we can look low, in books or in journals, but the result
is the same. The scientific literature has no answers to the question of the origin of the immune system.” The footnote of course is to Darwin’s Black Box.

Here’s the best part:

That background set the stage for the crucial
face-off at the trial…Rothschild then presented
Behe with a thick file of publications
on immune system evolution, dating from
1971 to 2006, plus several books and textbook
chapters. Asked for his response, Behe
admitted he had not read many of the publications
presented (a small fraction of all the
literature on evolutionary immunology of the
past 35 years), but summarily rejected them as
unsatisfactory and dismissed the idea of doing
research on the topic as “unfruitful.”

Judge Jones commented in his decision on that summary rejection:

In fact, on cross-examination, Professor Behe
was questioned concerning his 1996 claim that
science would never find an evolutionary explanation
for the immune system. He was presented
with fifty-eight peer-reviewed publications, nine
books, and several immunology textbook chapters
about the evolution of the immune system;
however, he simply insisted that this was still not
sufficient evidence of evolution, and that it was
not ‘good enough.’
We find that such evidence demonstrates that
the ID argument is dependent upon setting a scientifically
unreasonable burden of proof for the
theory of evolution.

That reminds me of something Dawkins says in ‘Root of All Evil?’ to the effect that no matter how much evidence scientists present of evolution or natural selection, it makes no difference at all; creationists don’t trouble to look at it or worry that there’s so much of it, they simply ignore all of it – summarily. A mountain of evidence has exactly the same effect as a grain of it: none whatever. That’s a good point, you know – there’s something badly wrong with a way of thinking that is as blithe about dismissing a mountain of evidence as it is about dismissing a thimblefull.

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