Does Behe Quote Axe?

Continuing the discussion from Robert Shedinger: Religion, Science and Evolution: Confessions of a Darwin Skeptic:

Nice to meet you @Puck_Mendelssohn.

Interesting observation. Are you sure? Has anyone ever asked him about it?

I’m doing a dialogue with him in Texas in a couple weeks. Give me enough info and I might ask him…

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Nice to meet you, too, sir! I enjoyed your review of Behe in Science!

Well, I’m not sure about his subjective motive, of course, so that’s a bit of a guess. I don’t seem to have my copy of Devolving Darwin at hand, but when I track it down I’ll double-check. I am pretty sure there is not a single citation to Axe or Gauger for any purpose in the book, but I could be wrong.

One other interpretation, of course, could be that Behe does not want to be drawn into controversy over their work, and feels he does not need it. But I cannot help but think he would have given it a mention at least, if he felt it was really defensible.

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So you are known for reviewing books in this space. I tend to like your reviews, and several IDists discuss you almost as a nemesis. Are planning to review my book, the GAE?

Ah, well I am glad you have enjoyed my reviews! I actually had not heard of your new book (though I am sure I would have run into it soon!), but now I will rush out to buy it and yes, I should be able to get an Amazon review up. I love it when people write books for a more general audience – I am myself without any formal training (past high school, unless you count a few weeks of phys anthro at the University of Washington in the 1970s) in biological topics, and yet am passionately interested, which often puts me in that odd in-between place where many books are a bit too dumbed-down but where I am also incapable of really taking the primary literature itself on, at least in any great quantity and without a bit of guidance. Human ancestry is an area I have always been particularly fascinated with, ever since my parents bought the Time-Life book on “Early Man” back in the 1960s or 70s. And new genomic insights into that are just what I love to read about – my goodness, knowledge moves fast these days!

On Behe, I have just located my copy of Darwin Devolves. I’ll get back to you with a more detailed version of my question, verifying the non-cite and pointing to where, in the book, I think he would have been expected to cite them if he thought their work was sound. His cites to other ID people are, likewise, few and far between. Behe is a strange one, and of course stands far above his ID peers in terms of having actual scientific credentials and real work (though, of course, not work particularly supporting ID) to his credit. I always wonder what he really thinks when someone like Stephen Meyer or Jonathan Wells just tells out-and-out lies – Behe’s honesty can be challenged, of course, too, but I always sort of suspect that a lot of what’s going on there is self-deception. He seems like a pleasant fellow, but judging from remarks at his book launch (I live in Seattle, near the heart of the beast) I would say that he does not take criticism of his work with a great deal of seriousness – odd for a man who might suppose he was ushering in a grand paradigm shift.

As for IDists and being their nemesis – I was actually a bit surprised when the DI started taking notice of me. It doesn’t happen on books like Darwin Devolves, because it makes better chatter for them to respond to a review like yours than to one like mine. But on their sort of regular-run books, the scientific community is no longer interested enough to bother commenting most of the time, and so I wind up taking fire from the DI. It first happened on Leisola’s book, Heretic, and then Jonathan Wells went after me for my review of Foresight by Marcos Eberlin (a man who thinks that “homoplasy” is what we now call the thing Darwin called “homology.” Clearly one of the greats.).

Anyhow: when the DI responds to me, I always have a chuckle. It’s always horrible, of course, and easily dismantled, but I sort of imagine them thinking, “what sort of perdition is this we have descended into, where instead of fighting off actual scientists, we are arguing with this guy?”


This would be interesting to know. At the very least, I want to ask him in private about it. I may not be able to share the answers. I may also ask in the dialogue…

I know Mike has respect for Dougs work. His approach to the design argument is quite different then Doug’s.

Why did he not cite Axe’s work? Or did he cite it?

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I cannot say he did not cite it but his work is different enough that I would not be surprised that he did not cite it. His comment on Axe is that he really appreciates his experimental work.

I don’t think much will be gained from trying to press Behe on this. Even if, totally hypothetically, Behe doesn’t trust Axe’s work all that much, I wouldn’t in a million years expect him to come out and say that.


Behe, having been a biochemist, likely sees the problem with Axe’s failure to assay enzyme activity, which for the protein he chose is very easy.


I doubt that Behe ever read Axe’s papers that closely.

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My personal prediction is that Prof. Behe is simply not going to talk about super-natural acts of God. If nature can’t be God’s proxy, it isn’t worth discussing.