Michael Behe, that darling of the creationist movement, the scientific savior of Intelligent Design, has written and published his second book, titled The Edge of Evolution. If you are an author, and if you aspire to the heights of the publishing world, you look forward to a review in the New York Times Book Review with anticipation and/or trepidation, depending on how confident you are in your work. Either way it’s gotta be a nerve wracking experience.
So I imagine Professor Behe’s hands were shaking when he opened his copy of the Book Review this morning as he sat down for his first cup of coffee. I suspect that as he finished the review in today’s edition, he was pouring a healthy slug of bourbon into his cup.
Who does the NY Times gets to review his book? None other than Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist extraordinaire and multiple times best selling author of books on evolution, and most recently, The God Delusion. His review is so scathing, and so dismissive, if I was Behe’s publisher, I’d pull it from the racks.
Dawkins expresses pity for Behe, because he has hitched his star to non-science, and as a scientist, that’s the kiss of death. Even his own biology department at Lehigh University has a disclaimer about Behe on their web site. Dawkins would have expected that Behe would have gone back to science, after the thumping he took in the Dover trial, but he didn’t. Instead, he wrote this book, which is the equivalent of reaching the point of no return.
According to Dawkins, Behe seems to downplay his previous pronouncement allegedly destroying Darwin’s elegant theory, his claim of “irreducible complexity” made popular at the Discovery Institute in his previous book, in favor of a notion that there is an “edge” to evolution beyond which complex species cannot overcome, because there is not sufficient time for the necessary mutations to occur. Dawkins says “poppycock”. Here’s more:
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 Behe forgot about the dogs? Given the fact that Behe also testified at the Dover trial that astrology was science, given his definition of science, I’m not surprised.
After reading that review, I feel sorry for Behe too.