Behe vindicated, again!

« At least in retrospect, it’s easy to see that devolution must happen — for the simple reason that helpful degradative mutations are more plentiful than helpful constructive ones and thus arrive more quickly for natural selection to multiply. The more recent results recounted here just pile more evidence onto that gathered in Darwin Devolves showing Darwin’s mechanism is powerfully devolutionary. That simple realization neatly explains results ranging from the evolutionary behavior of yeast in a comfy modern laboratory, to the speciation of megafauna in raw nature millions of years ago, and almost certainly to everything in between. »

1 Like

Well, this should be interesting. However, I fail to see how this vindicates Behe, because (to my knowledge) je hasn’t done any original work on the topic.
Also, Duh! Historically ~99% of all species have gone extinct, yet we still have a great many extant species. Behe is observing evolutionary business-as-usual and trying to take credit for it.


First of all that’s not a systematic review of the extend of gene loss compared to gene gains in mammoth evolution. It’s just a paper that looks specifically at gene losses due to insertions and deletions. Nowhere in that paper does it actually show gene losses outnumber gene gains in mammoth evolution, or that more genes have been lost than gained.

A “vindication” for Behe would be to show with some huge large-scale review of genome evolution of a statistically significant sample of all evolving organismal lineages, that gene-losses essentially always outnumber gene gains. It is not enough simply to point out that gene losses occur (which nobody disputes), he needs to show that consistently they outnumber gains in relative proportions.

The problem with that inference is you can only keep losing genes as long as those genes don’t contribute to, or are actually detrimental to fitness. So there must necessarily be some “rock bottom” of genes that can be lost without it negatively affecting the species ability to survive and reproduce. At that point there’s no other way to adapt than to change or gain functions. So no, it’s not obvious that “devolution” is some sort of inevitable consequence of the accumulation of mutations.


Sorry, but “devolution” just isn’t a thing. It seems to have been manufactured as a pejorative term to make evolution sound bad.


Evolution News (sic) is not trying to convince you Behe has been vindicated. They are trying to convince people like @Giltil. As you can see, they seem to have succeeded.


Behe falsely claims vindication again!

My memory of the central thesis of Darwin Devolves is that it can be summarised reasonably well from this quote from its Amazon blurb:

A system of natural selection acting on random mutation, evolution can help make something look and act differently. But evolution never creates something organically. Behe contends that Darwinism actually works by a process of devolution - damaging cells in DNA in order to create something new at the lowest biological levels. This is important, he makes clear, because it shows the Darwinian process cannot explain the creation of life itself. “A process that so easily tears down sophisticated machinery is not one which will build complex, functional systems,” he writes.

(My emphasis)

Behe’s point is not that evolution and adaption sometimes works by breaking genes – a point I would suspect that the vast majority ef evolutionary biologists would agree with, but that it “cannot” work and “never” works in any other way.

This opinion is echoed in the Amazon blurb by DI-ally Matti Leisola:

Behe introduces new molecular-level facts that sink the Darwinian view of life once and for all: Darwinian mechanism sometimes helps survival of an organism but always by damaging or breaking genes. The conclusion is clear: life is the product of a mind.

(My emphasis)

The trouble is that, even if you accept Behe’s summary of Van der Valk, Tom, et al. & Helsen, J. et al. at face value (difficult, given his long record of misrepresentation of others scientific work), this only demonstrates that it “sometimes” happens, not that it “always” happens, and “never” & “cannot” happen any other way.

This leaves Behe holding nothing but a “mammoth” nothing-burger. :laughing:


Incidentally, this seems like a Catch-22 among creationists, sorry, cdesign proponentsists: if a gene is lost, that’s devolution. If one is gained, well that can’t be by evolution so it’s proof of ID. You can’t lose!


Let’s not be too hasty …


Is it just me, or is Behe is making an argument very similar to Sanford’s Genetic Entropy silliness?


Whip it. Whip it good.


Links to Behe’s reference papers:

Evolutionary consequences of genomic deletions and insertions in the woolly mammoth genome

Gene Loss Predictably Drives Evolutionary Adaptation


You will never live it down … :stuck_out_tongue:

You don’t need to have done original work on a topic to devise original interpretations or even theories on the topic. For example, hasn’t Darwin harnessed a lot of scientific results that he didn’t produce himself in order to devise his theory?

Behe is in the business to think about the meaning of some scientific developments as they relate to evolutionary theory. In doing so, he has proposed some interesting and original idea, among which the so called « first rule of adaptative evolution ». Shouldn’t he deserve credit for it?

Shockingly, Behe has managed to be MORE wrong than Sanford. Sanford was at least basing his conjecture on an invalid extension of known phenomena of small populations. Behe doesn’t even have that much support.


The more science progresses, the more hapless Darwin seems.


The more he opens his mouth, the more hapless Behe seems.


Gene duplication, point mutations that create new control elements in gene regulatory regions, polyploidy, and sometimes “junk” DNA gets hijacked into doing something useful. These are all well documented categories where genetic information is added, not lost. For the latter, one example is where endogenous retrovirus DNA had been recruited to create a class of proteins needed for cell-cell fusion in the mammalian placenta. See Small Things Considered: Retroviruses, the Placenta, and the Genomic Junk Drawer. In short, it looks like the evolutionary origin of placental mammals owes a lot to this kind of “junk” DNA.
So Behe is refuted (again!).


Darwin based his hypothesis on the work of others, AND spent many years gathering and interpreting data.

Shouldn’t he deserve credit for it?

The paper you cite is a literature review, not original research. Shouldn’t Behe be giving the credit to those who actually did the work? (Granted he does cite one of his own relevant publications.) Given the large body of work on this topic prior to 2010, it seems statistically unlikely that Behe was the first to consider the idea. However, I will defer to the biochemists in the audience.

Incidentally, this bears resemblance to an optimization method called “simulated annealing”, where random changed are introduced so that a search can escape a local optimum. It should come as no surprise that evolution can benefits from “breaking” genes to allow new functions to develop.

Or simply discarding things that are no longer useful but are costly to carry around.

1 Like

Yeah, how DID that get to be a surprise? I remember being a bit surprised that Behe managed to write a whole book about it, as it’s such an ordinary thing. I suspect he just realized that his audience is so dim that they’ve probably never heard of feature loss or gene loss as a normal part of evolution. That meant he could exploit their ignorance to swindle them again.

Oh, to be a giant among mountebanks!


“No one in this world, so far as I know - and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me - has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.”

H. L. Mencken

1 Like