Michael Behe's sequel to Darwin's Black Box appeared this week and the occasion was marked by a scathing review in the journal Science, authored by Sean Carroll. The reviewer starts by saying that his experience of reading the book reminded him of Thomas Huxley's words during his 1860 debate with Samuel Wilberforce: "The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands." He expands on this with this comment: "Behe makes a new set of explicit claims about the limits of Darwinian evolution, claims that are so poorly conceived and readily dispatched that he has unwittingly done his critics a great favor in stating them."
Unfortunately for Carroll, the words attributed to Huxley were unknown for at least 30 years after the event. They were probably a retrospective invention to further the aims of those trying to represent any questioning of Darwinism as anti-science. Sad to say, Carroll continues to affirm the warfare thesis in this review, painting Behe as writing for "various flavors of creationists", drawing attention to legal decisions declaring ID to be a religious concept, and more.
Readers of Carroll will learn very little about what actually is to be found in Behe's book. This excerpt comprises most of what he has to say: "Behe also explores some examples of Darwinian evolution at the molecular level, including an extensive treatment of the evolutionary "trench warfare" fought between humans and malarial parasites over the millennia - all in the context of what Darwinian evolution "can do." So what's the problem? The problem is what Behe asserts Darwinian evolution can't do: produce more "complex" changes than those that have enabled humans to battle malaria or allowed malarial parasites to evade the drugs we throw at them. Behe's main argument rests on the assertion that two or more simultaneous mutations are required for increases in biochemical complexity and that such changes are, except in rare circumstances, beyond the limit of evolution. He concludes that "most mutations that built the great structures of life must have been nonrandom." In short, God is a genetic engineer, somehow designing changes in DNA to make biochemical machines and higher taxa."
Although Behe's book is packed with arguments from evidence, Carroll has only broad brush rejections of his thesis. He declares "an immense body of experimental data directly refutes this claim". Also, that Behe has "again gone "public" with assertions without the benefit (or wisdom) of first testing their strength before qualified experts." This type of reasoning has often been heard before. Instead of engaging with ID scholarship, there is an appeal to mountains of contrary evidence and to qualified experts who know best.
What Carroll does not acknowledge is that Behe's thesis is recognised as significant among many professional biologists: they have been talking for years about what Darwinism can and can not do! Carroll's selection of literature should not be read as a fait accompli, but as a rear-guard defence of the Darwinian paradigm. There should be an academic debate about the significance of these data.
The real issue is: will a debate within science be allowed? If Behe is not allowed the right of reply, this review should be treated as an exercise in polemics, designed to protect the world of science from ever having to face up to evidences of ID. If there is the opportunity to reply, readers will enjoy a genuine scientific debate. This review must backfire, because science has shown that there are limits to Darwinism and it is perfectly legitimate to ask what Darwinism can and cannot do.
God as Genetic Engineer
Sean B. Carroll
Science 316, 8 June 2007, 1427 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 1428 | DOI: 10.1126/science.1145104
Review of The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism by Michael J. Behe, Free Press, New York, 2007. 331 pp. ISBN 9780743296205.
"The Lord hath delivered him into mine hands."
Those are the words that Thomas Huxley, Darwin's confidant and staunchest ally, purportedly murmured to a colleague as he rose to turn Bishop Samuel Wilberforce's own words to his advantage and rebut the bishop's critique of Darwin's theory at their legendary 1860 Oxford debate. They are also the first words that popped into my head as I read Michael J. Behe's The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. In it, Behe makes a new set of explicit claims about the limits of Darwinian evolution, claims that are so poorly conceived and readily dispatched that he has unwittingly done his critics a great favor in stating them. [snip]
John Hedley Brooke, The Wilberforce-Huxley Debate: Why Did It Happen? Science & Christian Belief, (2001), 13(2), 127-141
Excerpt: "Far from any lasting significance, the event almost completely disappeared from public awareness until it was resurrected in the 1890s as an appropriate tribute to a recently deceased hero of scientific education. That delicious remark, "the Lord hath delivered him into mine hands", was probably a retrospective invention of that decade. There is, to my knowledge, no reference to it in the few contemporary reports."(p.129)
Behe, M. Response to Critics, Part 2: Sean Carroll,
AmazonConnect Blog, June 26, 2007
Luskin, C. Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part IV): Mistaking Protein Sequence Similarity for Natural Selection
Evolution News & Views, July 2, 2007 [This essay has links to the other three parts of this response to Carroll]
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