Jerry Coyne: Pushing Behe over the Edge?

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Jerry Coyne educates Behe about a few common misconceptions about evolution and shows why Intelligent Design, especially ‘at the edge’ is fully scientifically vacuous.

Coyne reviews Behe’s latest book ‘the Edge of evolution’ and like many before him finds the book unconvincing and ‘rather pathetic’.

What has Behe now found to resurrect his campaign for ID? It’s rather pathetic, really. Basically, he now admits that almost the entire edifice of evolutionary theory is true: evolution, natural selection, common ancestry. His one novel claim is that the genetic variation that fuels natural selection–mutation–is produced not by random changes in DNA, as evolutionists maintain, but by an Intelligent Designer. That is, he sees God as the Great Mutator.

20 Comments

Have prior posts noted the recent honors afforded Jerry Coyne? He was made a fellow of The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Congratulations!

See: http://www-news.uchicago.edu/releas[…]4.aaas.shtml

Interesting. I have not read Behe’s new book, but the way Coyne describes it makes it sound that Behe’s new position is very similar to Ken Miller’s ideas in “Finding Darwin’s God.” That is, somehow god influences the mutation process in order to nudge things in a certain direction. Is that about right?

Mike Z:

Behe’s position is that he can “scientifically” PROVE that godidit (mutations) whereas Miller holds this as a personal belief, that he acknowledges as being unprovable/religious

The only similarity between Ken Miller and Behe seems to be that both testified during Kitzmiller and as such assisted the plaintiffs in making their case.

“The only similarity between Ken Miller and Behe seems to be that both testified during Kitzmiller and as such assisted the plaintiffs in making their case.”

Miller certainly played an influential role in that case but the bulk of the credit for the plaintiffs win goes to Behe.

Miller suggested ID was religion and not science, Behe proved it so!

Mike Z:

Behe’s personal belief in the existence of a designer, and what the designer did, when, and how, may be nearly identical with that of Miller, but his misrepresentation of evolution could not be more different. IIRC that was established in a 1995 Behe-Miller debate

My own suspicion is that all major IDers privately agree with Behe, even though they usually spin vague arguments against common descent, and bend over backwards not to antagonize YECs.

IDers like to whine about atheists a lot, read closely and you’ll find that they often admit that theistic “evolutionists” are their chief adversaries.

Mike Z:

Yes, insofar as I understand Miller’s idea in FDG of how Yahweh interacts with the biological world, he does indeed believe that he undetectably smuggles information into mutations diguised as quantum randomness.

Jason Mitchell is also correct that whereas Behe believes that he has a good argument for this, Miller the “sophisticated theist” seems to admit that he holds this belief for no good reason at all.

Behe appears neither to have discovered coevolution nor to have learned that one can profit from discussing science with knowledgeable colleagues.

Interesting. I have not read Behe’s new book, but the way Coyne describes it makes it sound that Behe’s new position is very similar to Ken Miller’s ideas in “Finding Darwin’s God.” That is, somehow god influences the mutation process in order to nudge things in a certain direction. Is that about right?

It’s an idea that he floats.

He seems to come down more with the idea that God wants “freedom” in this world, and that random mutation and natural selection allow for this freedom. He smuggles God more into his ideas that the cosmos might show evidence of purposeful production for the sake of life (interesting how Collins and Miller like to move the magic to a science other than their own), and hedges around whether or not this constitutes some kind of “evidence” for God.

In any event, Miller doesn’t insist that God hides His control in quantum determinacy, not even in his own view, let alone for the rest of us.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/35s39o

Les Lane Wrote:

Behe appears neither to have discovered coevolution nor to have learned that one can profit from discussing science with knowledgeable colleagues.

Behe also “appeared” to have many misconceptions of evolution 11 years ago, as evidenced by “Darwin’s Black Box.” But he has been repeatedly corrected, and certainly understands the corrections, enough to spin his way around them. Anyone truly misinformed would have acknoledged the corrections, or if they were still confused, at least shown genuine effort to learn more on the subject.

Given Behe’s antics, it should be clear that he knows more than he lets on. As long as he can dazzle his target audience, though, he doesn’t care what his critics think. And if they portay him as misinformed rather than dishonest, that can only add to his popularity with his audience

It seems that Behe is preparing the way to his eventual return to the fold of science and evolution. May be as a theistic evolutionist? Who knows!!! Eventually after been gone to the dark side for years (of madness) he realized that the edifice of illusions created by Creos is just that illusions and myths. But don’t hold your breath :-)

What the *&%^$@##$$? Wheew, that was a nightmare but is good that I am awake now. Things are normal and Behe is the same IDiot as ever.

It seems that Behe is preparing the way to his eventual return to the fold of science and evolution. May be as a theistic evolutionist? Who knows!!!

Interesting idea. At one time in his career, Behe must have been a real scientist. According to his biography (as reported in Wikipedia), Behe earned his doctorate in biochemistry with is dissertation in sickle cell disease (which would have required him to do original research and have his dissertation peer reviewed before it was published). He also did post-doctoral work at the National Institutes of Health.

What would it take for Behe to once again become a credible scientist in his field? And would the scientific community ever accept him back?

What would it take for Behe to once again become a credible scientist in his field?

Easy: say something credible.

And would the scientific community ever accept him back?

Absolutely, if he ever did some more research.

Jerry Coyne Wrote:

he now admits that almost the entire edifice of evolutionary theory is true: evolution, natural selection, common ancestry. His one novel claim is that [ … ] he sees God as the Great Mutator.

Frank J Wrote:

he has been repeatedly corrected, and certainly understands the corrections, enough to spin his way around them.

Behe, mutatis mutandis.

Tyrannosaurus Wrote:

It seems that Behe is preparing the way to his eventual return to the fold of science and evolution. May be as a theistic evolutionist?

I originally had no interest in reading another Behe book, but from the comments I think I have to read “The Edge of Evolution” just to see how he spins it. From what I can tell, though, he just states more authoritatively the same position that he has held for at least a dozen years. And a position that other major IDers never criticize directly because they know that it fits the evidence better than the YEC and OEC that they hope that their audience infers from their “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Maybe I’m wrong, but the book seems to be just a popularization of the Behe & Snoke paper, which does nothing to support anything that IDers hope that their audience infers. If Behe were “returning to the fold of science and evolution,” he’d be following the paper with more original research that looks more into what the mysterious alternative mechanism is, rather than mere incredulity. That he is writing a pseudoscience book for general audiences instead, tells me that he won’t be doing science that advances or challenges anything in evolution anytime soon.

Jerry Coyne educates Behe about a few common misconceptions about evolution

I’m afraid not. Your colleague Jason Rosenhouse thinks Coyne laid and egg. :-)

Sal Wrote:

Jerry Coyne educates Behe about a few common misconceptions about evolution

I’m afraid not. Your colleague Jason Rosenhouse thinks Coyne laid and egg. :-)

Another typical misapplication of the false dualism. In fact, both could be true.

Care to defend Behe Sal?

I doubt it.

Not so fast, Sal.

Jason’s point was that Coyne said mean things about Behe and ID in general, rather than giving a neutral review and evaluating the scientific argument.

But, since Behe provides no scientific argument, the only thing left is himself and the collapsed ash heap that used to be ID.

Therefore, Coyne did the best he could do given the raw ingredients.

Reasonable people may disagree about such matters. I’m afraid that leaves you out in the cold, Sal.

Behe’s God is the “Great Mutator?” Behe has finally caught up to the view held by a fellow Christian who lived during Darwin’s day, Asa Gray, who proposed that Darwin’s theory was correct, but that God supernaturally popped into being completely new genetic mutations which nature then “selected.”

Perhaps I.D.ists like Behe will resort in future to even subtler, less falsifiable vies than Gray’s? Here’s some examples:

“The Designer” (or “God”) doesn’t have to pop new genes into existence but could simply direct the path of mutatgenic chemicals that already exist inside every cell and that cause mutations to occur, nudging a mutagenic chemical ever so slightly to the right or left inside a cell’s watery matrix so that the mutagen touches a strand of DNA or RNA at a specific point. Since cosmic rays can also create mutations, God could direct a cosmic ray bending it ever so slightly and undetectibly way up in the earth’s upper atmosphere so it mutates a bit of DNA. So God would only be nudging a few mutagens that already exist inside a cell, or bending and directing cosmic rays that are freely available and always entering the earth’s atmosphere.

Or maybe God doesn’t fool with creating new genes or with directing their mutation at all, but lets all mutations occur naturally via natural mutagenic substances and cosmic rays, but God might still determine supernaturally the long life or early death of particular creatures whose genes have naturally mutated, ensuring that only certain genes are passed on to the next generation. So God becomes “natural selection.”

Or maybe as many theistic evolution evolutionists believe, God simply lets mutations happen naturally, and also simply lets nature do all the weeding out as well, AKA, “Darwinism.” After all, each one of us has to pass through a whole series of hurdles, proving ourselves, before we ever reach reproductive age and pass our our genes to the next generation, and that weeds out a heck of a lot of failed genetic experiments. It’s the price of evolution, the “entropy” price, of all those failed experiments of nature, in order to reach something “different” via natural change that can also survive. And the differences of course continue to accumulate over time as species continue to diverge from one another as genetic changes accumulate, we’re not all growing more the same and merging and becoming identical, instead a branching process of accumulated changes is the normal continuous process of life.

Speaking of the weeding out that goes on in nature: After two gametes meet and form a zygote, half of all zygotes die (true of human beings as well as many other species, even pro-lifers have admitted that spontaneous abortions of zygotes occur at that high rate), and the trail of death continues, some organisms die during later developmental stages in the womb, some die while being born, or they die in childhood (after succumbing to nature’s “arms race” to produce better viruses and bacteria that kill children), or they die due to any number of additional factors till they reach reproductive age, and then sometimes they reach the age of reproduction but don’t mate. That’s a lot of hurdles that each newly mutated organism must pass through in order to continue passing on accumulated genetic changes that we know are indeed taking place as species continue to branch off from one another (rather than merge into identical species).

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This page contains a single entry by PvM published on June 13, 2007 1:11 AM.

Egnor and ignorance was the previous entry in this blog.

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