Librarians Scoff at Behe’s Intelligent Design Book

LAST year we wrote here that book reviews by librarians could be a heretofore unsuspected firewall in the struggle to keep creationism books from being purchased for Louisiana science classes in the guise of “supplemental materials.”

The neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids) are aware of the danger librarians pose to their plans. We’ve written about that here. We also written a few articles about the widespread creationist dislike of librarians, for example: Creationism and the Dewey Decimal System. Their concern about librarians is justified.

Library Journal (LJ) is a trade publication for librarians founded in 1876 by the creator of the Dewey Decimal System. The Wikipedia article about LJ says that it has the highest circulation of any librarianship journal — approximately 100,000.

The current issue of LJ has what seems to be a regular feature: Xpress Reviews — First Look at New Books. In the linked article, if you scroll down far enough you’ll find a one-paragraph review of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, by Michael Behe. In case you haven’t heard of him, Behe was a key anti-evolution expert witness at the trial of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We have a post devoted to his courtroom performance: Kitzmiller v. Dover: Michael Behe’s Testimony.

As you might imagine, Behe’s latest book has been much praised by the Discoveroids. For a sampling of numerous Discoveroid blog entries promoting his book, see: this, by Bruce Chapman, and this, by Robert Crowther, and yet another by someone else. Those are only a few Discoveroid blog articles from 2007. There are many more in that year and quite a few since. Behe is a key player in the Discoveroids’ war on reason. He’s one of the few scientists actively supporting their movement.

Okay, so let’s see what Library Journal has to say about Behe’s book. It’s only a one-paragraph review, written by Walter L. Cressler, but it says a great deal in a few words, so we’ll take it a little bit at a time. The bold font was added by us. Also, the LJ article links to their earlier reviews of the books it mentions, but access requires a subscription so we’re omitting those links. Here we go:

Behe (biochemistry, Lehigh Univ.) became known as the scientific voice of the intelligent design (ID) movement when he introduced the concept of “irreducible complexity” in his Darwin’s Black Box. This book extends that theme, adding a statistical argument based on the intensively studied malarial parasite to explain why Darwinian processes alone cannot account for the origin of complex biological structures.

That’s a good description: “the scientific voice” of ID. Behe is one of the very few ID supporters with academic credentials in a biological field. Referring to him as such should be contrasted to what goes on with other scientific theories. Is there a “scientific voice” for any generally accepted theory? All scientists are scientific voices for the foundational ideas in their fields. As for new theories, there can be a brief period when there is a solitary voice, but if the theory is supported by evidence, it soon gathers supporters. For something that’s been around as long as ID, it’s telling that Behe is “the” scientific voice for it. Let’s read on:

Despite Behe’s logical consistency, his case is weakened by assumptions that predetermine his conclusions. For example, his main claim is that complex structural novelties cannot appear by “random mutation”; otherwise, they would have been detected in the malarial parasite, since the number of individuals studied has far exceeded the number of individuals in many species’ entire complex evolutionary ancestry. Numbers alone do not convince.

That first sentence is quite devastating. This reviewer is good! We continue:

Behe is dismissive of the recent evolutionary developmental studies that do address the appearance of novel evolutionary structures (e.g., Sean Carroll’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful).

One can’t very well be a creationist without being dismissive of scientific studies. Here’s more:

His main tactic is to quote the expressions of surprise these investigators’ have at the complexity of life’s processes in contrast to their previous understanding.

A common creationist tactic. Gotta love this reviewer! Moving along:

In Behe’s search for the limits of Darwinism [the subtitle of Behe’s book], his definition of Darwinism is limited.

A brief and brutal sentence. Elegant, really. Lesson: Don’t get the librarians mad at you by claiming that religion is science; they decide what goes where.

Here’s the end of the review:

An optional purchase, although libraries following the Darwinism-creationism debate may consider.

Wonderful! An optional purchase, to be considered only if a library follows the “controversy.” As we suspected, professional librarians are a formidable ally. This isn’t surprising, as their mission is to catalog and classify human knowledge. They’re good at what they do, and they correctly consign creationism (and of course ID) to the category of junk science.

Copyright © 2009. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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6 responses to “Librarians Scoff at Behe’s Intelligent Design Book

  1. No matter how much folks like you and me advocate for sound science, the first line of defense is always the high school science teachers and librarians. Bravo!

  2. James says: “… the first line of defense is always the high school science teachers and librarians …”

    I have a hunch that librarians are very rational people. That kind of work wouldn’t attract a creationist.

  3. longshadow

    For those libraries purchasing Behe’s book, the Dewey catalog classification of 616.89 seems appropriate…. in the form of a case study, of course.


  4. Longie says: “… Behe’s book, the Dewey catalog classification of 616.89 seems appropriate ….”

    Still wrong. A book on faith healing doesn’t deserve to be classified under a “disease” category.

  5. Eric Strickland

    I live in a non Bible belt state where there’s very little liklihood of the state legislature or a local school board introducing bills or policies that would challenge evolution.

    Nevertheless, the local library has a copy of Behe’s “Darwin’s Black Box” listed under Dewey Decimal 575, side by side with a couple dozen other books for and against evolution. The online database says it’s been checked out 7 times since it was acquired.

    Don’t know if its readers are anti-evolution, or just want to be acquainted with the faux arguments put out by the other side, or undecideds who want to hear both sides of the debate.

  6. Eric Strickland says: “The online database says it’s been checked out 7 times since it was acquired.”

    We have their names in our “To be Expelled” database.