First Review of Behe’s New Book

The Discovery Institute has been blogging frequently and frantically about the latest book by Michael Behe ever since November when we wrote Discoveroids Promote Behe’s New Book.

Today, the much-anticipated review of Behe’s book is out and available for viewing. It appears at the website of Science: A biochemist’s crusade to overturn evolution misrepresents theory and ignores evidence, written by no less than three competent reviewers: Nathan H. Lents, S. Joshua Swamidass, and Richard E. Lenski.

We know you’re going to read it for yourself, so we’ll only give you a few excerpts — with bold font added by us for emphasis:

In 1996, biochemist Michael Behe introduced the notion of “irreducible complexity,” arguing that some biomolecular structures could not have evolved because their functionality requires interacting parts, the removal of any one of which renders the entire apparatus defective. This claim excited creationists and remains a central plank of the “intelligent design” movement, despite being rightly rejected by a U.S. federal judge in 2005 in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. In Darwin Devolves, Behe continues his quixotic efforts to overturn modern evolutionary theory.

Great start. Huh? Then they talk about Behe’s “theory”:

In the grand scheme of evolution, mutations serve only to break structures and degrade functions, Behe argues. He allows that mutation and natural selection can explain species- and genus-level diversification, but only through the degradation of genes. Something else, he insists, is required for meaningful innovation. Here, Behe invokes a “purposeful design” by an “intelligent agent.”

The reviewers then give several examples that rebut Behe, including:

Behe is skeptical that gene duplication followed by random mutation and selection can contribute to evolutionary innovation. Yet there is overwhelming evidence that this underlies trichromatic vision in primates, olfaction in mammals, and developmental innovations in all metazoans through the diversification of HOX genes. … Behe acknowledges none of these studies, declaring an absence of evidence for the role of duplications in innovation. [Footnote references omitted]

The review ends with this:

Ultimately, Darwin Devolves fails to challenge modern evolutionary science because, once again, Behe does not fully engage with it. He misrepresents theory and avoids evidence that challenges him.

It’s utterly devastating, but the Discoveroids are in full denial mode. At their creationist blog they just posted Early Science Review of Darwin Devolves — A Panic Attack?, by Klinghoffer. Here are some excerpts, which need none of our bold font for emphasis:

The review of this forthcoming book has three authors — Richard Lenski, Joshua Swamidass, and Nathan Lents. They say that “Darwin Devolves fails to challenge modern evolutionary science” but they have no answer to the main challenge that the book lays down.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Let’s read on:

Why was it written and published in this way? It’s odd to review a book that hasn’t been publicly released yet. For a review of a book that’s presumably of trifling importance, why is one author not enough?

[…]

It feels like a panic.

[…]

These three are hustled out to critique Behe, but when they get up on the stage they find they have no reply to the main point of Behe’s book.

[…]

Whatever else was going on here, the editors of Science clearly wanted to cut off this threat before it got any further along.

Okay, that’s enough. If Behe’s book is the best that creationists can do, we think Darwin’s theory is likely to survive

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “First Review of Behe’s New Book

  1. This is the most vacuous riposte I have seen in a long time. They have spent- how many? blog posts praising Behe’s unpublished work, but when someone criticises it, it’s “panic”?

  2. Klinkletinkle wet himself but good this time.

    The reviewers made two critical observations:

    One, Behe is doing the same thing he’s done in his previous books, that is, making unsupported assertions.

    Two, Behe ignores published research that directly counters, rebuts, destroys or renders false Behe’s pronouncements.

    Here’s a money quote from the review:

    Behe asserts that new functions only arise through “purposeful design” of new genetic information, a claim that cannot be tested. By contrast, modern evolutionary theory provides a coherent set of processes—mutation, recombination, drift, and selection—that can be observed in the laboratory and modeled mathematically and are consistent with the fossil record and comparative genomics.

    Do you need to read Behe’s book? Of course not. A Jack Chick tract would be more entertaining and scholarly. Every chapter in Behe’s “Black Box” was wrong. Every chapter in “Edge” was wrong. And every chapter of “Devolve” will be wrong. That’s the way Behe rolls. Sadly, running down Luskin’s old quote mining and his plagiarism is more interesting than anything Behe has ever written. Panic would be a step up from this schlock!

  3. “Here, Behe invokes a “purposeful design” by an “intelligent agent.”
    Where would an IDiot be without a god of the gaps fallacy? Even if this

    “Something else, he insists, is required for meaningful innovation”
    is correct a Grand Old Designer (blessed be MOFO!) doesn’t logically follow.

  4. Michael Fugate

    Since the DI is a primarily a PR outfit this is not surprising – if scientists ignored the book, the DI would have said scientists were afraid.

    There is nothing of substance in Behe’s reply or in his book. It is the typical creationist book – sacrificing science to a narrow reading of Genesis. Behe assumes organisms were designed perfectly adapted to the Garden of Eden. Eden itself is also perfect and unchanging. Humans sin, are kicked out, and now live in an unpredictable world. Change is the norm. If organisms were perfect then, any change would render them less than perfect. One cannot get better than perfect.

    The whole thing is silly. It assumes a protein can only have one function and a single optimum no matter the internal or external environment. Not only that, organisms were created with all their proteins functioning at this mythical optimum. These underlying assumptions, which Behe hides, have no basis except in Behe’s brain.

    What Behe does is the typical slight of hand, an argument from anecdote, if one example fits, then it is universal. Behe must know that his “law” isn’t always true or he wouldn’t weasel his way through his definition.

  5. Klunkledoople says “or a review of a book that’s presumably of trifling importance, why is one author not enough?” Apparently the poor man isn’t familiar with actual peer reviewed science and the methodology by which the validity of science articles is examined and commented on. None other than Science took his hero, Bere and hung him out to dry. Boo hoo. Kloopledinker never ceases to amaze with his outright fraudulence. I find it scary that people like Kloopledunkman, (or Behe for that matter) who profess to be devote practitioners of religion, can be so completely dishonest. Just crazy as it gets. Kookles dog whistle articles appeal to the science hatred of fundamentalists , not their logic skills. Because if they keep reading junk like this steaming pile Klopmandoofer just put out , they don’t have any. Logic skills that is.

  6. The best rebuttal of Behe is Behe’s own defence, at https://evolutionnews.org/2019/02/woo-hoo-in-science-review-of-darwin-devolves-lenski-has-no-response-to-my-main-argument/?fbclid=IwAR0j0lxoGULij5KJF9TD-a49iJZaorOnIGrn2eMPIML_tDCjhlcdPDlUxnc .Not so much shooting himself in the foot as publicly blowing his brains out.

    I’ve already discussed it in another thread; unlike Behe, when I have nothing to add, I will say no more. Except this:

    Definition of chutzpah; an ant climbing an elephant’s leg, with intent to rape

  7. I suspect Lenski volunteered to contribute because he is completely done with Behe et al’s eternal bitching. One must inevitably get annoyed when one’s been working on a successful experiment for 30 years only to be dragged through the mud by people too lazy or incompetent to devise their own experiments.

  8. “… they find they have no reply to the main point of Behe’s book”

    The main point of Behe’s writings is that he has no scientifically valid arguments so he does not submit scholarly papers to peer reviewed scientific publications. As a result he has to resort to writing mass market books aimed at convincing scientific illiterates that his creationism is “scientifically” valid. Any time that the Discovery Institute makes a correct statement it is not only quite rare but also totally accidental.

  9. @Paul,

    My favorite Behe was right after his testimony at Kitzmiller where gave the case to the plaintiffs having admitted under oath that he wasn’t familiar with the research he was talking about and that for ID to be considered science so would be astrology. He said in an interview on the courthouse steps, “I think that went rather well.” Totally. Effing. Clueless. Zero self-awareness.

  10. Monica Lewis

    Behe promises a detailed response in a few days. Should be a howler.

  11. An interesting comment in the review:
    ” He allows that mutation and natural selection can explain species- and genus-level diversification, but only through the degradation of genes. Something else, he insists, is required for meaningful innovation.”

    I find this interesting because it reminds me of the YEC claim of “micro-evolution within the created kind”, where a created kind is “something like a taxonomic family”, that is, that the YEC accept that the literal Bible allows natural species- and genus-level diversification.

    A curious agreement between “Intelligent Design” and “Young Earth Creationism”.

  12. TomS is getting warmer, warmer …

    A curious agreement between “Intelligent Design” and “Young Earth Creationism”.

    More like a “purposeful arrangement of parts.” ID is YEC and OEC and just plain C without the explicit mention of You Know Who. Bear in mind that ID, unlike the YEC’s, OEC’s and just plain C’s, is not an attempt to explain anything. It’s a propaganda tool to force a culture change away from “materialism” and toward You Know Who and all that jazz. Thus, ID can be anything it wants to be – alternative facts, fake news, national emergency, witch hunt – anything.

    Behe suffers from a religious delusion coupled with a lack (or loss) of faith that compels him to seek evidence of You Know Who thus ensuring Behe’s mangey hide and immortal soul; same thing. So far, no luck. However, like the eternal optimist digging through a pile of manure certain there’s a pony in there somewhere, Behe keeps throwing out his schlock hoping he gets enough fellow travelers to reassure him with a “there, there.”

    Sorry to deliver the bad news, Behe, but there is no there there.

  13. Michael Fugate

    Dennis Venema commenting on Behe’s claim that the reviewers missed his point.

    Author: erosion is really, really common. We see it all over the place. Here are hundreds of known examples. Mountains can’t be natural.

    Reviewer: the author doesn’t address what we know about all the many, many geological processes that cause rock uplift.

    Author: the reviewers don’t even address my main argument!

  14. Charles Deetz ;)

    Why three reviewers? The same reason this blog post has so many comments … showing Behe is wrong is easy and mildly entertaining. And no digging into research the flaws are readily apparent.

  15. Good things often come in threes:

    — Three Wise Men
    — Three Musketeers
    — The Marx brothers (let’s not count Zeppo)
    — Three Coins in a Fountain (more coins, even better!)
    — Three Stooges (er…wait a moment)
    — Michael Behe’s third book (uh-oh, something’s not right…)
    — The Holy Trinity: Son, the Father and the Hol…er, hang on…

    OK, there’s some really s**t things that come in threes, as well.

  16. Karl Goldsmith

    Yeah why ask three scientists to reveiw a book, could have just asked one creationist, isn’t that what the IDiots do? If it’s good enough for them!

  17. @docbill1351
    I was particularly struck by the coincidence in drawing the line between families. A family is, after all, only a arbitrary human construction. The YECs chose that because of Noah’s Ark. I rather doubt that Behe has any interest in “baramins”.

  18. Karl Goldsmith

    It has been pointed out on Peaceful science that the IDiots have written four articles in reply.

  19. In the grand scheme of evolution, mutations serve only to break structures and degrade functions, Behe argues. He allows that mutation and natural selection can explain species- and genus-level diversification, but only through the degradation of genes. Something else, he insists, is required for meaningful innovation. Here, Behe invokes a “purposeful design” by an “intelligent agent.”

    Hmm. Species and genus diversification? Isn’t Behe moving the goalposts a bit? And just what counts as ‘meaningful” biological innovation, anyway, and who gets to decide?

  20. Eric Lipps asks:

    And just what counts as ‘meaningful” biological innovation, anyway, and who gets to decide?

    You’ve heard of the “god of the gaps.” Well, it’s the same general idea, but now we’ve got the “designer of meaningful innovations.”

  21. Thanks for this! I’m sad that I’m just discovering your blog, but I’m subscribing now.

  22. Welcome aboard, NathanHLents.