The new issue of the Reports of the National Center for Science Education turned up in my mailbox the other day. As always, it contains lot’s of interesting nuggets.
Michael Ruse reviews Sahotra Sarkar’s recent book, Doubting Darwin: Creationist Designs on Evolution. The review is well done, by which I mean it says exactly what I would have said were I reviewing the book. (Short version: It’s a good book with a lot of sharp arguments, but at times Sarkar’s explanations of scientific or philosophical ideas are not as clear as they might have been).
But this was the part that caught my eye:
When I first heard that this book was being written, I confess that I was skeptical. We have heard a huge amount in recent years about so-called “intelligent design” (ID) and much that we have heard has been very critical. Why then do we need another book on the topic?
Michael Ruse is wondering why we need another book on this subject? The man who has spent the last decade or so writing, editing or updating books like, Darwinism and its Discontents, The Evolution Wars, Darwin and Design, Debating Design, But is it Science: The Philosophical Question in the Creation/Evolution Controversy, and Intelligent Design: William Dembski and Michael Ruse in Dialogue?
Methinks Ruse is just worried about competition with his own tediously repetitive volumes.
Meanwhile, biochemist David Levin provides an excellent smackdown (one of the best I’ve seen) of Michael Behe’s latest claptrap. He writes:
In the end, the most irritating aspect of this book is Behe’s selective use of the ever-expanding base of sacientific knowledge as a soapbox from which to shout his embrace of perpetual ignorance. The better our understanding of the intricate details of complex biological systems, the stronger his belief that they must have been designed and that science will never unravel how they came to be. This is a trend for him. As Eric Rothschild, chief counsel for the plaintiffs at the Dover trial, observed of Behe’s claim that the immune system is irreduicbly complex, “Thankfully, there are scientists who do search for answers to the question of the origin of the immune system … Their efforts help us to combat and cure serious medical conditions. By contrast, Professor Behe and the entire “intelligent design” movement are doing nothing to advance scientific knowledge and are telling future generations of scientists, don’t bother.” Scientisits have never listened to him. But with so many concessions to evolution mixed with his new message of God-as-mutagen, will anyone?
Well said. The waning forutnes of the ID movement are well-encapsulated in the response to Behe’s The Edge of Evolution. When he published Darwin’s Black Box in 1996, the book was a major topic of conversation among people who care about this issue. If Behe didn’t exactly present a new argument, he did at least come up with a new gloss on an old argument. Many scientists weighed in with detailed critiques of the book, and papers and counteressays appeared, sometimes in academic journals.
EOE, by contrast, has mostly been met with a yawn. A few perfunctory reviews that do little more than acknowledge its existence and point to its emptiness, and that is all. Even the ID bloggers have had little to say about it. It is poorly written (unlike DBB, which did at least have some clever turns of phrase), contains little that is new and nothing that is significant, and makes an argument that is little more than a wealth of unsupported assertions. With ID’s awesome defeat in the Dover trial, it seems unlikely that many school boards will try to introduce it directly into the classroom. Indeed, ID is old news now, with everyone having moved on to the even more watered down version of creationism known euphemistically as “Teaching the Controversy.”