Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution”- Theodosius Dobzhansky
The recent debate between Bill Nye and creationist Ken Ham has renewed my disdain for those who reject evolution or those who present a corrupted version of evolution. Obviously one of my interests is dogs but like every biologist I also have a deep interest in the backbone of all biology: evolution. This means when I see someone spout nonsense about dogs and evolution, it gets me doubly upset.
Within the context of dogs, I am of course talking about self-proclaimed physics/cognition/evolution “expert” Kevin Behan. I see many similarities between Ken Ham and Kevin Behan; both are hardcore science denialists who think far too much of themselves and the ‘truth’ is only accessible through them.
Take the simple case of selection and the term coined by Herbert Spencer, ‘survival of the fittest’;
a tautological Neo-Darwinian logic (i.e. those proto-dogs that understood human gestures survived and those that didn’t, didn’t.)
With this quote Behan shows us he is profoundly ignorant of evolutionary theory. Behan knows just enough to know selection played a role but not enough to understand the concept of selection. Here is a short animated clip the subject.
The ‘tautology’ argument is raised so often by creationists, the science site TalkOrigins has a page dedicated to debunking this claim: Is Evolution False because its Description is a Tautology?
the mind of the animal learns the same way the body of the animal evolves, by participating in the flow of emotion
Behan is such a “genius” that his views on evolution even stretch to include relatively difficult subjects like evolutionary development which includes body planning, patterning, spatial organization and cell differentiation.
Color me skeptical. Given that we still learning the way bodies evolve, Behan’s claims seem like a load of horse crap. Without getting complicated, the evolution of an animal’s body involves genes like Hox and dlx, the re-purposing of transcription factors and other regulatory elements – I’m confident an animal doesn’t learn the same way.
I’m often asked for the science behind NDT and my response is that the findings are already in. However the research has either been misinterpreted or the significance of a given experiment missed.
Funnily enough, young earth creationists make the same bold assertion about science. They too claim that science supports a young earth and radiometry, molecular clocks, geological and cosmological data has been “misinterpreted.” The truth is Behan doesn’t understand the research better than the people carrying out the work. Neither do I, but at least I know this.
the only theory of cognition that does not need to be revised…..is NDT.
And with this final quote Kevin Behan reaches for omniscience while unknowingly admitting to being a complete idiot.
Here too, Behan argues like a creationist. Neither creationists nor NDTalists understand science and so they view the constant revision as a weakness. It fact that is its true strength.
Indeed all human knowledge is provisional and our view of psychology, biology, chemistry, physics and all sciences is different today than it was 50 years ago. And 50 years from now, it will be different too. It’s called progress.
Progress, revisions, reassessments, that’s science. Pseudoscience? Pseudoscience doesn’t have to be revised because it never progresses. NTD is intellectually dead and stagnant as its peddlers.
The domestication and evolution of dogs is a complicated matter that still confounds researchers. Despite diligent work by scientists across the world the answers remain fuzzy and often conflict. It’s a complicated topic and those offering easy answers are lying.
11 thoughts on “Dog Evolution Denier Ken Ham…. I mean Kevin Behan”
Hello, based on some other comments I have seen on your website what I have to say is nothing new but I will put it to you anyway.
With sarcastic name calling you seem to be making a personal attack on Mr. Behan which seems very counterproductive to your claim of valuing the scientific method. Mr. Behan is courageous enough to put forth his theories and beliefs (sometimes with great conviction and confidence and sometimes with great humility and doubt) and sign his name to them, something you won’t do.
The question I keep coming back to is if it is OK for you to personally attack an ACTUAL person, not just their theories or beliefs, why will you not subject yourself to the same? If I resorted to your tactics I would answer that question by assuming things about your moral character and calling you names like cowardly, intimidated, lacking in conviction. But since I cannot know that about you I would not do that. Instead I will simply request that you re-consider doing one of two things 1) limit your comments to the theory and have a scientific debate or 2) come out from behind your mask.
Behan is as much of a charlatan as Brad Pattison, Cesar Millan or Ken Ham; though his corruption of science makes him particularly annoying and professionally offensive.
You are misusing the word theory; that word has a real meaning in science, it’s not even a hypothesis. Behan doesn’t have any theories, they are just-so stories.
And humble? He’s a self-absorbed, delusional, egomaniac, not at all humble. A humble person would not claim he is right and thousands of scientists are wrong. And I do make myself subject to criticism. Professionally we call it peer review and here all ideas get posted. Feel free to criticize the science but know that you need more science to do so. Behan-style sophistry and lies don’t cut it.
I don’t agree that having an anonymous blog makes you subject to criticism, it makes your blog subject to criticism. I come from a family of PhD scientists (although I am not one so you can put down your slings and arrows) and I have read, seen and heard respectful, thoughtful peer reviews and what you post in your blog does not come close in tone or content.
Have you ever actually had direct communication with Mr. Behan or anyone else you decide to turn your judgment on? Have you ever approached him to ask him with a sense of curiosity or even collegiality about the questions or even conflicts you have with him?
Have you ever considered, as someone who has an interest in dogs and science, about the value of someone else who is recognizing that the current mainstream view of dog cognition might not be accurate and see that as a place of common ground?
You really SEEM to be a person filled with anger and rage, although I cannot know that about you based only on what you choose to write on this blog. I hope your life and relationship with your dog is not tainted with the same vitriol.
In that case you should really make up your mind. You’ve already criticized me in the previous comment and in this one:“You really SEEM to be a person filled with anger and rage”
Should Behan ever make an intelligent and respectful commentary he will receive a similar reply. When he dismisses the work of scientists and accuses them of not being smart enough to see what he sees, then he receives the appropriate amount of derision and contempt.
The fact is I don’t need to meet Behan to know he is peddling bullshit and I don’t have any conflicts with Behan, he has conflicts with reality. I’m simply pointing it out.
Yes, I can see why you might view my comment about what I perceive as your rage as a personal criticism. I did struggle to try and figure out a way to convey that it was a perception that I have based on what you have written, hence the emphasis on the word “SEEM”. The truth is I cannot know that about you because you will not reveal yourself. It is a perception that I am “simply pointing out” DIRECTLY to you in the only format I have available to me.
And just as you can very rightly point to my comment/criticism about your emotions as contradictory to what my stated convictions are, I too can say you display the same. When you say you are “simply pointing out” what you BELIEVE about Mr. Behan’s state of mind you are making a judgment, not pointing out a fact about him (by the way I do mean the word “believe” because you will never convince me that you can prove any of what you are saying about the character or intentions of Mr. Behan as fact since you refuse to have any contact).
My experience in life tells me that everyone one of us, you, me and Mr. Behan, will be contradictory and even hypocritical as we express our convictions. None of us are above it. This is because we are HUMAN. This applies to all the HUMAN scientists who strive to explain with absolute certainty the nature of the universe. The reason we continue with scientific endeavors is the PURSUIT of knowledge. And sometimes that knowledge refutes, sometimes it supports, sometimes it refines previous understanding. Once we have all the perfect, absolute, certain knowledge then scientists will be out of a job and so far that has not happened. So it is perfectly acceptable to me that Mr. Behan questions the current science on canine cognition especially given his extensive and comprehensive observations and experiences. I realize that may sound preachy to you and I am sure what I am saying here is not a new revelation to you, but that is what I would like to remind you of.
I have had conversations with Mr. Behan and he is very humble and respectful even with those who disagree with him, even encouraging me to pursue alternatives because he knows that we all have to come to our own conclusions when making decision about how to train our dogs. I have also personally witnessed him being asked, almost baited into saying personally disparaging things about other dog trainers and he will not do it. He will make a case for why his methods and philosophy are superior and even make comparisons to their methods, but he will not personally attack them. To me that is the definition of humble and classy, and I can say this with authority because I KNOW him. But my opinion is NOT fact is it?
You and Mr. Behan have conviction and passion and I applaud that. Since I can only evaluate your anonymous blog, I will make no claims that Mr. Behan is more RIGHT than you, or even SMARTER than you. But I do make the JUDGMENT that he is more CIVIL than you.
It is obvious to me that since you believe that your language and tone regarding Mr. Behan is a form of “simply pointing it out” I will never convince you otherwise, but I will try again because you are someone who states a concern and interest in dogs and I can find common ground with you on that. In my opinion, the way it FEELS to me when I read what you write is that you are personally attacking someone, not critiquing their ideas (see, I chose to use a different word than “theory” since that seemed to create another point of conflict). Your tone makes it very difficult for me to listen to you and remain open to your opinion, much less persuaded. So please consider this: you MAY be right, but I cannot hear you.
So again, I make the request that you reveal yourself.
Anonynous, your comment was filled with rage and it was a personal attack; which would be fine if you hadn’t whined against it in the same post. You seem like a douche. Are you feeling any better than “You are a douche”? After all, the subjective nature of you being a douche is always coming from my perspective and putting “SEEM” doesn’t change that. You added “SEEMS” for your benefit; it does nothing in the way the insult is met.
Your characterization of how scientists criticize each other is overly romantic. One of my favorite blogs by Mark Chu-Carroll PhD, the Good Math Bad Math blog’s raison d’être: “To track down the bozos who use bad math to lie, distort reality, and in general support bad arguments; demonstrate their errors and their dishonesty; and generally mock them.”
You are wrong. I do both. I point out Behan’s factual and logical errors and then I make a comment about him. He’s got to be an idiot if after reading why his assertion about survival being a tautology, he simply repeat the claim. Or to think that this joker who doesn’t even read scientific papers or has any academic credentials can easily dismiss 150 years of science because he lacked the intelligence to understand the science.
“You refuse any contact”? What the hell do you think you are doing? This is contact. You are contacting me and I am responding.
I also understand that you will never be convinced. Like creationists, you did not come to your position by reason and logic so I cannot use reason to convince you.
BTW scientists don’t seek absolute certainty – that isn’t science. Behan claims to have absolute certainty; NDT is religion, that’s why he says it will never need modifications. He thinks his ideas are perfect. To question science you do more science. I’ve shown again and again Behan’s attacks on science come from his poor understanding of it. Frankly, a lot of what Behan writes seems to stem out of his daddy issues from a domineering father and his socially awkward son who saw “everything was subordinate to the needs of our father and the demands of the business”
And even though you say Behan is humble his actions demonstrate he is an egomaniac who thinks himself smarter than all scientists. And yes, he’s said many disparaging things; according to Behan scientists are afraid to consider his ideas, we don’t know what we are saying and he called Dr. Abrantes’ post “nonsense.” Those are the examples at the tips of my fingers. Luckily for you, the facts don’t depend my or your identity. They just are.
Behan has written a long, schizophrenic, often incoherent response to this post and rather than bore everyone with another post of long refutations of his fantasies, I’m putting in the comments. His post is called
More on Behavior and Thermodynamics
My response in bold
When some encounter an energy theory of behavior, [There is no energy theory of behavior. There is a made up story. Kevin Behan starts with a lie and carries this lie throughout his thesis ] they recast it as something it isn’t, such as telepathy, [actually Behan is the one who cast it as telepathy by introducing the “group mind” and adopting the telepathic ideas of Rupert Sheldrake.] creationism, intelligent design, mysticism. You know the drill.
I believe that life evolves according to principles of energy, not by random. [A ridiculous empty sentence. Behan has never been able to properly describe his “principles of energy” and whenever the talks about energy it’s not in a meaningful way. No one believes life evolves “by random”.] I also believe that the earth, the moon and the stars evolve according to principles of energy, not by random. [Repeating the lie is a good way for to make his readers accept it.] Now if the latter belief keeps me in good stead with modern science, why not the former? [Neither former or latter; ”principles of energy” isn’t part of science]
However, we can know that the evolution of the earth, the moon and the stars can be extrapolated from their current behavior. [Also false. Nothing about how the moon behaves would give Behan the idea that it formed when the earth was hit. While planetologists are still figuring out the history of our solar system, Behan provides an easy answer he thinks answers all questions. Not hampered by facts Behan can make up anything he wants ]
Likewise I believe that life evolves according to principles of energy because it too can be extrapolated from the behavior of animals. [Evidence shows that Behan can’t extrapolate anything. His talent lies in inventing stories to explain what he sees. This is why Behan never makes any predictions. ] (If that is, one resists the intellectual reflex to project their own thoughts and human rationales onto what they’re observing.) It strikes me as illogical that there could be one kind of evolution that governs the inanimate realm versus one that governs the animate domain. [ Is he aware that one of the defining principles of life is the time-dependent, local reduction of entropy? The use, conversion and manipulation of energy? Natural selection? Mutations? ]
It also strikes me as illogical that species evolve as separate genetic entities in competition with each other. [Who cares what this idiot finds illogical. There are now many experimental evolution studies proving that he is wrong. Between anyone’s ”logic” and evidence; their logic always loses ]
I don’t believe this is logical because it can be seen that all species of animals can potentially connect and communicate through a common universal code, one predicated on principles of energy, i.e. emotion. [ i.e “I don’t believe the facts.” Nature isn’t obliged to conform to Behan’s logic. And making a claim about universal codes. ] The existence of this [ which? He hasn’t shown the existence of anything. ] universal fundamental common denominator can be extrapolated from their behavior [what universal fundamental does Behan extrapolate from the behavior of coral? (they are animals) ]
[the rest of Behan’s response borders on the insane and it not worth the time]
I have to agree with Anonymous. Debate and logic are weakened by fallacious reasoning and an ad hominem attack is, fallacious, plain and simple. Go back and look at what you said — it all could have been stated without a personal attack. Thus so weakens your argument that it will only take foothold in the weakest of minds (debate theory, principles of logic, etc.) who rejoice in ad hominem and vitriolic attacks. This is, IMO of course. IMO, I saw no anger in what Mr. Anonymous said. I found I could not read the last 50% of your article any further because the personal attack seemed so distasteful to me, like a punch in the stomach to be more accurate.
I can see your point about ad hominem attacks however you don’t make the case for fallacious reasoning. Calling Behan a fool/idiot/whatever is an afterthought. His views are systematically dismantled. I’m not saying he is wrong because he is an idiot, rather I deconstruct his fallacious claims and then I observe he is a fool. But I don’t feel bad about it. He has no problem attacking scientists and even more annoying to me, misrepresenting their research.
BTW the mistake you mentioned on the other post have been fixed and the updates credit you for noticing.
Hi – I don’t know much about Ken Ham but I’ve been experimenting with “Natural Dog Training” – losing tug of war, feeding from hand, and not correcting.
I’ve seen these activities recommended by scientists. (Tug of war mentioned here http://www.theguardian.com/science/2011/jul/17/dog-training-john-bradshaw-animal-behaviour) So which specific part of NDT is not good? I mean, to me, it seems like a really basic and simple method that just includes a game and a feeding style. There are other games, but none of them include forcing your dog to do anything it doesn’t want to do or bribing with treats.
Again, don’t really know who Ken Ham is, I found out about NDT from another source.
I agree classical conditioning works for things like tricks – but what about overall behavioral training? Like heeling on lead, and staying calm in difficult situations. (I know temperament is highly influenced by genetics so perhaps Ive just gotten lucky with my dog.) I’ve managed to get my dog to heel on lead without a leash and I tried every other method before and none of them worked. (Millan’s were probably the least effective.)
There is nothing natural about “Natural Dog Training” and nearly everthing of what Behan does is something he stole – AND THEN TOOK CREDIT FOR – from other people and traditions; pushing and tugging are two examples of this.
Aside from some blatantly stupid things, like claiming a shock collar will energize a dog or that dogs form telepathic collectives like the Borg in Star Trek. His claims are pseudo-scientific nonsense and he corrupts technical language in service of his con. Ultimately, it prevents you from understanding your dog.
I object to Behan for the same reason I object to New Ageism, mysticism, creationism, etc. In each case the proponents are taking advantage of scientifically naive audiences to sell them lies.
Behan has copied what other sport trainers do, though occasionally badly interpreted their approach. Treats are not bribes if you are using them correctly and functionally they are not substantively different from prey games – in both cases it is reinforcement. In short, everything that Behan does can be explained if you have a good understanding of the principles (ethological, psychological, neurological) involved and it doesn’t require us to invent unseen energies and undetectable networks.
You want a prey-driven style to training (assuming it fits your dog) then there are trainers like Denise Fenzi who you can learn from without having to sacrifice intellectual integrity.
Finally, I don’t think any trainer sees a difference between tricks and heeling. Both are behaviors that can be shaped and reinforced to the point you can cue them on demand. There is no difference between ‘tricks’ and other obedience behaviors. “Tricks” exist only in your mind, not the dog’s mind.
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