Coyne: Scientists damn Behe’s new book; he responds lamely



Darwin Devolves: The End of Evolution?
(S. Joshua Swamidass) #2

This is a well done article by Coyne. @Pnelson, @bjmiller, and @agauger, take a look at it if you have a moment. The “no response to my argument” gambit will be hard to defend. It will be interesting to see for how long Behe tries to maintain it. This is what Coyne says:

Unfortunately, Behe appears to have missed the fact that the reviewers did address Behe’s main point—at least twice. What is that point? It’s apparently the contention that evolution nearly always relies on inactivated genes during nonadaptive evolution, as such genes can be useful (not making a product can increase your fitness if that product is superfluous or injurious in a new environment). On top of that, mutations that “break” or degrade genes are more common than genes that affect or alter gene function. Put these together and you get Behe’s Rule, but the rule itself is broken.

The problem with Behe’s Rule is that yes, random mutation most often degrades genes, and broken genes can be adaptive, but natural selection doesn’t just choose any gene; it chooses ones that increase fitness. And we have many examples of non-broken genes that increase fitness . These include the arising of duplicated genes and then the divergence of those genes to perform new functions on top of old ones—a very common mode of adaptation in nature that has created many useful “gene families.”

As Venema put it aptly:

If that is the tack Behe wants to go, he is more than welcome to do so. It would be another example of not engaging with legitimate critique.

(S. Joshua Swamidass) closed #3