Professor Lesser Known,
I love the picture of Behe lecturing Darwin. And the full review was excellent. I learned a lot. Thanks.
Where is the windmill!?
Unfortunately for Behe, the evidence is not on his side. As Lenski, Joshua Swamidass, and I wrote in Science last month,11 Behe continues to ignore the abundance of research that undercuts his claims, some of which has been publicly pointed out to him. In perhaps the most dramatic example, a multisubunit complex called T-urf13 was cobbled together from various pieces of noncoding DNA in the maize mitochondrial genome.12 This is a key example because the T-urf13 complex is a gated ion channel, a molecular structure that Behe specifically held up as an example of irreducible complexity in his first book, Darwin’s Black Box . That this structure was formed through several random DNA rearrangement events is nothing short of incredible, but there it is. Arthur Hunt published a detailed description of the evolution of T-urf13 at Panda’s Thumb more than ten years ago.13 Behe is surely aware of it,14 yet he doesn’t even attempt to engage with this clear example of random tinkering accomplishing exactly what he claims it cannot.
In Darwin Devolves , Michael Behe continues to dig himself further into the hole he opened 20 years ago with Darwin’s Black Box . This time, his shovel is molecular sequencing, but what he omits is far more telling than what he discusses. The word recombination appears only once in this book (outside of the notes) and neither exaptation nor horizontal gene transfer are mentioned at all. As these are key forces in generating diversity and innovation, I’d say they merit discussion, especially by someone intending to challenge their importance. Also absent is any discussion of Muller’s two-step model (or its recent update) or Allen Orr’s groundbreaking work on speciation. The list could go on for pages. Perhaps the most egregious of Behe’s omissions is his repeated assertions that his previous claims about irreducible complexity stand unchallenged. He may find the hundreds of published refutations unconvincing, but the onus is on him is to explain why. Instead, he pretends they don’t exist. While big ideas are often improved through sharp criticism, Darwin Devolves misses its mark, not so much for all that it says, but for all that it doesn’t
Ouch that stings!
@colewd, you are here too!
- In a forum on Peaceful Science , Bill Cole from Uncommon Descent , claimed that Behe told him in an email exchange that he was aware of T-urf13 and that Darwin Devolves would address it with an expansion of ID theory. He did not do so, but this is a second-hand report of his claim that he would. See https://bit.ly/2GZnlAD