Braterman: Darwin Devolves, So What?

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ENV needs to get back into frenetic-posting mode to take on a review that doesn’t make an effort to soften criticism.


Why do you think they responded this way to us? The last review from science barely provoked a peep.

If I had to guess, I would say there are probably 2 main reasons for the odd response.

  1. I think the whirlwind of posts at ENV may have occurred regardless of who wrote the first review. If ENV is attempting to skew search engines, and it seems a plausible guess to explain the unusual behavior, they may have responded similarly to whatever came out first.

  2. I also believe there was a certain amount of “playing to their base”. Let’s face it – there is still a very large number of professed Christians in this country that have a hard time believing that God could have created through evolution. If non-scientist Christians began recognizing serious holes in the arguments of the ID “superstar”, that would be bad news long term for ID, in general, but especially for the Discovery Institute.


Pretty sure it’s the “no death of any kind before Adam and Eve’s fall” crowd that sees evolution as preaching a false gospel of glorifying death as an acceptible means for God to use for good ends. “Natural evil” is the category so defined, and only a few have tackled it constructively within a positive milieu.


It may be that the flurry of related posts on ENV is timed to coincide with the release of the book this week. I don’t think I would read too much into their behavior, at least for another few weeks while the DI is pushing for sales.


You probably knew this already, @swamidass, but others may not. Braterman’s review does have a link to the Lents, Swamidass, and Lenski review.

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I see some things in that review I would take issue with. In particular this stood out to me:

The reasoning here is extraordinary. Behe starts with the banal observation that when breaking a gene would increase fitness, such breaking should be expected.

Behe doesn’t anywhere that I have read say this. And I would in fact consider that an extraordinary claim if someone were to make it, not at all banal. That sentence makes it sound like if a mutation will be adaptive, we should expect it to happen for that reason.

When breaking a gene would increase fitness, such breaking should be expected.

No, it shouldn’t. And I don’t think Behe says this. Behe instead says this:

From there he slides into the highly questionable claims that “the overwhelming tendency of random mutation is to degrade genes” [3]

But that is not a questionable claim at all. The vast majority of mutations in protein coding genes, at least, are deleterious to gene function. It’s just that if that protein performs a useful function, purifying selection gets rid of them.

The problem with Behe’s claim is that we should always expect adaptation to proceed through gene function deterioration, (aka what he calls de-volution, hence the name of the book Darwin Devolves) and that whatever “constructive” mutations happen could never amount to “constructing” any significant amount of function and/or complexity.

Presumably because Behe thinks in so far as any constructive mutation ever happens, so many other destructive ones will also happen that there will always be a net loss of functions/complexity.

It is my impression THAT claim is Behe’s main contention, and it is THAT claim that Behe’s case must stand or fall on.

The claim that mutations in so far as they happen, are more likely to negatively affect a gene’s function, is to my knowledge actually true.

and a further leap takes him to the conclusion that the natural processs of mutation and selection cannot create significant function.

This is where I think Behe’s case unhinges.

I’m absolutely sure the DI institute will slaughter this review for misrepresenting some of Behe’s claims, as it in fact does.


This is an important point. I is critical to realize that Darwin Devolves is irreducibly complex; requiring both Edge of Evolution and Darwin’s Black Box for support. This makes all three books the subject of conversation right now, and they are a house of cards. If one false, so goes Darwin Devolves.

Gah! Yet another bastardization of the term IC!

Not at all. I’m using the IC1 definition.

Take one part, the being a valid ID argument falls apart. Of course, none of these parts are valid, but all of them are essential. That is about as vulnerable of an argument as I can imagine. See here: Darwin Devolves Itself Is Irreducibly Complex.