Comments on Darwin Devolves Review


(S. Joshua Swamidass) #1

Continuing the discussion from Darwin Devolves: The End of Evolution?:

Before you join the conversation, don’t forget to give everyone your popcorn recommendation (Darwin Devolves - Review: Popcorn recommendations?).


I just read the review, and I hope you also post to Amazon.

I would have added a cite to;
"Acceleration of Emergence of Bacterial Antibiotic Resistance in Connected Microenvironments" Qiucen Zhang, Guillaume Lambert, David Liao, Hyunsung Kim, Kristelle Robin, Chih-kuan Tung, Nader Pourmand, Robert H. Austin, Science 23 September 2011: Vol. 333 no. 6050 pp. 1764-1767

“It is surprising that four apparently functional SNPs should fix in a population within 10 hours of exposure to antibiotic in our experiment. A detailed understanding of the order in which the SNPs occur is essential, but it is unlikely that the four SNPs emerged simultaneously; in all likelihood they are sequential (21–23). The device and data we have described here offer a template for exploring the rates at which antibiotic resistance arises in the complex fitness landscapes that prevail in the mammalian body. Furthermore, our study provides a framework for exploring rapid evolution in other contexts such as cancer (24).

Multi-site mutations, functional mutations, TEN HOURS, why sequential mutations are functional, and more likely, and with medical applications.

(John Harshman) #4

It’s paywalled.

Darwin Devolves: The End of Evolution?
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #5

Try the blog:

(T J Runyon) #6

Yeah, I was expecting it to be longer

Darwin Devolves: The End of Evolution?
(Nathan H. Lents) #7

They wanted 750w and we pushed them a little further. I have a longer essay on this book coming out in Skeptic later this month where I dig deeper.

(T J Runyon) #8

Looking forward to it

(T J Runyon) #9

We still need to have a detailed conversation about the waiting time problem

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #10

We do. I was just talking to @Agauger about this. We will soon (thought I’m already swamped by the flood of FB questions from the article). In the mean time, look at Moran’s exchange with Behe. @art hits on precisely where Moran makes his mistake (by missing Behe’s mistake), but Moran is essentially correct in his understanding of the math. Behe is not, and when corrected, he ignores it and appeals to an invalid epidemiological estimate as validation of his incorrect math. That is his error (the one that Moran misses).

(Nathan H. Lents) #11

Weird place to post this I guess, but would anyone like to be included on the recipient list of my monthly “newsletter?” Not really a newsletter, more like a short list of announcements of things that I’ve recently published, no more than monthly. I’m starting this because blogs are falling out of vogue and I am falling out of love with social media. Back to email! If you want to be on the list, send me your email.

(T J Runyon) #12

Wow. Just…wow. It seems to me you guys touched on his main argument. I’m

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #13

It is just spin. Behe’s style is to argue we missed his argument, and then roll back and forth in definitional games. It has been fun to watch over the years. This time I get to play too!

In his book, he is arguing against a strawman of evolution, so he missed his target entirely. He isn’t even aimed in the right direction, so even if it were true that we did not counter his argument (it is not true), he would still come up short. Let’s see how it plays out from here.

(John Harshman) #14

It just shows how strongly the need to believe (in this case, that he’s right and you’re wrong) can influence perceptions.

(Curtis Henderson) #15

I imagine it will galvanize the loyal following, which is probably the aim of the rebuttal.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) #16

@NLENTS did you see the third article they published?

(T J Runyon) #17

Their responses have been predictable:

  1. Accuse people of not addressing the main argument
  2. Accuse people of circular reasoning

It’s same thing every time.

Also, I don’t understand why they think the early mutations in development being harmful NOW is such a good argument. I think its safe to say that early mutations in development weren’t as inflexible back around the Cambrian. A
few hundred million years of building around a certain way of doing things will do that to a lineage.

(Nathan H. Lents) #18

And another…

(Nathan H. Lents) #19

I also want to remind everyone that I’ll be dropping a longer treatment of the book on AiPT! on Darwin Day, Tuesday. Then an even longer version will be out in Skeptic next month, going out on eSkeptic (which you should all subscribe to!) around the day that DD is officially released. These three reviews have some overlap, of course, but I tried to also cover different things in each of them. I would have preferred just one long-form book review, but the New York Review of Books passed on it. NYRB has the most erudite readership of any publication I know of, so it probably wasn’t the right place for it anyway.


Hmm…finally read the review.

I think the word limit was definitely an issue. This will probably not change anyone’s mind. Perhaps what you could do on here, is explain IN DETAIL some of the footnotes that you link to. The review consists mostly of saying “this has already been refuted. [footnote]”

For the average reader like me, and one who reads and writes articles in theology and NOT science, slogging through these journal articles to see how Behe has been refuted is an extremely daunting prospect.

Can you summarize the findings of some of the most important articles here?

Also, @swamidass,

Other than exaptation, the only things you mention are drift, random (I finally know what you mean by that) mutation and selection. There are so many other mechanisms that could help contribute to the downfall of irreducible complexity, why not bring them up? Horizontal gene transfer, and NGE seem to be extremely powerful candidates for helping with this overthrow, but no mention.

You say that we are past Neo-Darwinism, but other than exaptation, it looks as if drift is the only thing added to the Neo-Darwinian framework. But this is a review written by both you and Lenski who dismiss the Third Way and EES as completely unnecessary pseudo-history. Ok. Fine. At least show us that the MS DOES incorporate these other mechanisms then.

I’m not a supporter of Behe, I think IC can be explained. But I think that even with your word limit, more could have been SHOWN rather than cited to make this point. Behe goes over the top by saying you haven’t addressed his main point, but…you address his main point mainly be referring to FOOTNOTES that address the main point. @NLENTS, I hope your other two reviews don’t make this same mistake.

I guess this is why I’m Third Way or EES. I feel like there’s a lot both your side and Behe are leaving out.


I’m very interested in your thoughts.


On another note, @swamidass, congrats on getting to Co-author this article wih Lenksi. That’s a big deal!