Over at Denyse O'Leary's Post-Darwinistshe's posted an entry that laments poor Michael Behe's thrashing by those nasty Darwinists who've reviewed his piece of trash, The Edge of Evolution. In her post she quotes from a pair of interviews she did with Behe in which they bring up the Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne reviews. They then wonder whether Dawkins and Coyne read the book because Dawkins brought up dogs.
O'Leary: I still can't believe that Dawkster garbage about dogs. [Richard Dawkins's review of Behe's book that did not make clear whether he had even read it or understood the challenge it poses to Darwinism, and indulged in an extended riff about intelligently designed dog breeding.]Behe: Yeah, I was astounded when Dawkins talked dogs. Now Jerry Coyne is doing it too! These guys have some serious problems.
Did they read the reviews? Coyne thrashed that book and turned it into pulp in a lengthy review. [Note: I admire Coyne's extensive articulate style, excellently showcased in that review as well as "Intelligent Design: The Faith That Dare Not Speak Its Name".] But there is not one piece of substantive rebuttal to Dawkins, Coyne, Miller, or any of the tons of blogs that took Edge of Evolution through the ringer. No, they make a little joke out of Dawkins point. Let's look at it:
The crucial passage in “The Edge of Evolution” is this: “By far the most critical aspect of Darwin’s multifaceted theory is the role of random mutation. Almost all of what is novel and important in Darwinian thought is concentrated in this third concept.”What a bizarre thing to say! Leave aside the history: unacquainted with genetics, Darwin set no store by randomness. New variants might arise at random, or they might be acquired characteristics induced by food, for all Darwin knew. Far more important for Darwin was the nonrandom process whereby some survived but others perished. Natural selection...explains the elegant illusion of design that pervades the living kingdoms and explains, in passing, us. Whatever else it is, natural selection is not a “modest” idea, nor is descent with modification.But let’s follow Behe down his solitary garden path and see where his overrating of random mutation leads him. He thinks there are not enough mutations to allow the full range of evolution we observe. There is an “edge,” beyond which God must step in to help. Selection of random mutation may explain the malarial parasite’s resistance to chloroquine, but only because such micro-organisms have huge populations and short life cycles. A fortiori, for Behe, evolution of large, complex creatures with smaller populations and longer generations will fail, starved of mutational raw materials.If mutation, rather than selection, really limited evolutionary change, this should be true for artificial no less than natural selection. Domestic breeding relies upon exactly the same pool of mutational variation as natural selection. Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe’s theory, what would you do? You’d take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let’s call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you’d wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.
So what is the rebuttal to this? On O'Leary's blog it's that these rebuttals come from scientists who have gone off the deep end or, if you take a look at Behe's book, an argument from ignorance and a god of the gaps that ignores or distorts the role of natural selection so far as this blogger can tell. By reading a mountain of blog reviews that cross disciplines we can see a panoply of good reasoning that flunks Behe's bad math and bad science.
But what does O'Leary do? She makes it about the evil oligarchy of Darwinists by bringing up Lehigh University's statement that stands for academic integrity and against bad science:
The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.
It's imperative that they make it clear. Not only are their images on the line, but the integrity of the scientific enterprise is at stake because of Behe's and the DI's arguments from logical fallacies, quote-mining, and hand-waving.
I suggest O'Leary et al get some real arguments instead of a bunch of foolish bluster and goal-post maneuvering.