Reviewing Behe's "Darwin Devolves"

Can you think of any scientific work the DI hasn’t claimed supports ID? Seems virtually all of ID’s efforts are in trying to mooch off the work of others and claim with zero basis the work actually supports ID.

I call these “Land Grabs”. And no, there is no basis for the claims, rather it is an effort to make others explain why it does not support ID. It’s a good tactic because any effort at scientific counter-arguements fail because ID is not a scientific proposition. The only correct response is to demand the basis of how the work supports ID.

I know a guy who makes the Land Grab claims on a regular basis.

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I am wondering if you and @Swamidass might agree with each other on the beneficial effects of transposition? I guess Shapiro/McClintock/Marshall see transposition more as a mechanism that is purposive in the sense that when a cell does it, it is most likely at least “trying” to repair errors in its DNA, even if most of the time, it doesn’t succeed. Perhaps you and Swamidass don’t see things this way? It’ll be interesting to see if Behe ineracts with these types of ideas at all.

8 posts were merged into an existing topic: Side Comments on Reviewing Behe’s Book

Sure, this happens. There are ID supporters who will seize upon any disagreement with neo-Darwinism or with current evolutionary theory and treat such disagreement as endorsement of ID. This is bound to happen, especially in an unregulated blogosophere where people of all levels of understanding can post comments after half a minute of thought. But I think the more careful ID proponents – such as Behe, in the passage quoted here, and Meyer, and so on – avoid the claim that Shapiro is an ID proponent or defends ID in any way. They might use Shapiro to show that not all scientists agree regarding evolutionary mechanism, but they will stop short of using Shapiro to buttress positive claims for design. I myself have avoided saying that Shapiro or Turner are ID proponents; I’ve limited myself to the claim that they seem to be reintroducing some notion of teleology into evolutionary thinking, and that this is, while not in itself ID, at least kindred to the thinking of ID proponents. Even a purely internal teleology is still teleology, and embracing any kind of teleology is pretty radical from the point of view of conventional biology. It marks one as at least highly suspect scientifically, if not unscientific altogether.


The mammalian middle ear is the poster child for exaptation. In this case, two lower jaw bones evolve function as two middle ear bones. If you remove any of the middle ear bones the system ceases to function.


It’s a little hard to say what might be relevant to a review, and these are interesting comments. I won’t start a Side-Comments topic just yet, as we seems to be self-limiting already.

Tag me if you disagree and I’ll do it anyway. :slight_smile:

Side comments here:

@Mark and @Eddie, moving comments is a moderator function, so you wouldn’t be able to do that. Don’t let that stop you from starting a new thread on your own, copying a relevant comment - that’s OK too - or tag a moderator to move things for you.

In the long run it’s a good idea for people to start their own side-comment threads. Mods don’t mind helping, but the Internet is a lot bigger than we are. :wink:


I’m wondering how Behe’s book is going. Does he dialogue with the extended synthesis or third way of evolution anywhere? If so, what does he say?

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Yes he does. Not surprisingly, he discusses them only as evidence that evolution by unguided natural selection is a theory in crisis.


Does he think they offer a more promising way of dealing with IC? And are the theories being proposed by the EES and Third Way equally unguided? I guess I’m still not sure when he would consider IC defeated, or whether something can be 100% natural and also guided.

Although he denies a double-standard, I have yet to see that he proposes anything testable and, as discussed in other threads here on Behe, when presented with evidence of things he claims can’t happen (random genetic rearrangements that result in creation of new functions), he moves the goal posts and say that this was latent information ready to be tapped when needed. It just seems all circular and self-fulfilling, as though IC and thus ID have the vaulted default position that should be adopted because of weaknesses in other positions.

In my way of thinking - this is a prior assumption so strong that it disallows any other conclusion.

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Have you read his previous books? Edge of Evolution and Darwin’s Black Box both made the same argument - that evolution was inadequate to explain, well, stuff. Sounds like the new book takes the same approach.

Difference is he also tries to review of response to his older arguments, so as to claim they are still standing. That is only true if you ignore all the legitimate critique of his work. Which is to say, it is false.



Any chance you might review Behe’s new book? It would be great to see what you think of this compared to Denton. I finally read @swamidass’s and @Art’s critiques of IC and I think, again, it would come down to the definition of “random.” But then again, I have seen Behe say different things regarding whether a “non-random” natural explanation of IC would support or destroy his claims.

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Why do you think this @mark? I don’t follow.

Noooo! Not another argument about definitions!



“The ability of a random sequence of DNA to form a 4-helix bundle when transcribed beggars belief. It would not be expected to happen in many, many tries. That alone makes it seem very likely that the sequence was not random.”

Given his pool shot analogy, by intelligent he doesn’t NECESSARILY mean “tinkered with by an intelligent agent” in the evolutionary process. Rather, this could be a purely natural process but as long as it wasn’t random (using Behe’s def), IC still stands? If evolution was “front-loaded” in the big bang Denton/Lamoureux style, then by intelligent, Behe means something akin to evolution by natural law or nomogenesis. @swamidass,

My guess is Behe defines random as every outcome being as equally likely as any other. Maybe you don’t think that process is “random” given his definition. There are plently of natural processes that don’t fit that definition of random. This is why I think Behe is confusing. If Behe is fine with IC being explained by a purely natural process as long as it’s not a “Neo-Darwinian” process of natural selection working on “random mutation” (given his def), then this claim seems fairly uncontroversial. I would imagine most biologists would agree, no?

However, if he insists that IC can only be explained by the INTERVENTION of an intelligent agent within the process of evolution, this is where things become extremely controversial. This is clearly where Stephen Meyer is but it’s not clear to me it’s where Behe is. If he takes one view, the claim is uncontroversial and rather boring. If he takes another view, the claim is extremely controversial.

Does that help clarify what I mean?

Not sure if this helps, but, quoting from Darwin Devolves:
“At a profound level, however, Darwin was rejecting teleology—the idea that life is directed toward some end, either by unknown laws of nature, some internal drive, or an intelligent agent external to nature. In the Darwinian lexicon “random” is shorthand for “unguided, unplanned” by anyone—pointedly including God."

And then much later:
“The clearly designed machinery is there to see, but who designed it? Most people, including myself, are theists and will naturally tend to ascribe the design to God.”

So, both in how he paints the position he opposes, and in how he describes his own, it’s clear, at least to me, that he is arguing that IC is the result of purposeful design by God.