Over at The Christian Century, biologist Joan Roughgarden serves up this review of Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution.
The good news is that Roughgarden is unambigously pro-evolution and anti-ID. She writes:
Behe’s position has been criticized scientifically and theologically. The structures thought to be irreducibly complex aren’t; precursor structures can be identified whose modification can lead to a flagellum–or any other trait, for that matter. Furthermore, ID advocates don’t offer any hypothesis about what happened in the evolutionary past–where, when and how did the designer give bacteria their flagella?
The ID position wound up being a litany of complaints against Darwin rather than a scientific hypothesis in its own right.
Not quite how I would put it, but basically correct. It’s nice to see an evangelical magazine publish something like this.
Sadly, the review is mostly an illustration of what happens when scientists not intimately familiar with ID claptrap presume to discuss the matter in print. For example:
ID is commingled with creationism, even though it is different. Unlike creationists, ID proponents accept the old age of the earth, acknowledge that all life–including humans and apes–share descent from common ancestry, reject the idea that species are specially created, and do not regard the Bible as scientifically meaningful. Nonetheless, ID and creationism are joined at the hip because ID proponents ally themselves with creationists for fund-raising, publicity, politics and legal strategizing.
Yikes. That’s really bad.
As far as I know, there is precisely one ID proponent who accepts common descent. That is Michael Behe (and it’s not even clear what common descent means when you’re also hypothesizing repeated interventions by the designer.). Every other prominent ID proponent explicitly rejects common descent. Furthermore, ID takes no stand on questions like the age of the Earth, what the designer did or did not do, and the reliability of scripture. Roughgarden is simply wrong to attribute to the ID movement generally the views of Behe specifically.
And the usual claim is not that ID is identical to young-Earth creationism, it is that ID is a just a form of creationism. People in London, Boston, and Baton Rouge speak English differently, but it is the same language nevertheless. Ditto for the relationship of ID to creationism.
We also get this:
Discussion of these issues is certain to be eclipsed by the gladiatorial spectacle of scientists behaving badly. Behe attacks by name biologists Kenneth Miller, Sean Carroll, Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins, among others. Perhaps not surprisingly, these scientists have responded vehemently in their reviews of Behe’s book. This conduct cannot increase respect and appreciation for science in the general public. Dawkins has yet to acknowledge his own direct responsibility for the existence of the ID theory. Phillip Johnson founded the present-day ID movement by writing Darwin on Trial (1993) in response to the ideology of selfishness and militant atheism that Dawkins preaches in The Selfish Gene (1976) and more recently in The God Delusion (2006). With both sides poisoning each other’s wells, it’s tempting to run away lest one be slaughtered as collateral damage.
Ahem. Darwin on Trial was actually published in 1991. And it was The Blind Watchmaker, not The Selfish Gene that inspired Phillip Johnson (at least as he tells the story).
What a strange paragraph this is! Who, exactly, is behaving badly? Dawkins, Carroll, Coyne and Miller criticized ideas they found to be badly mistaken. Where is the bad behavior in that?
And Roughgarden can’t really believe what she is saying here. That there would be no ID movement were it not for Dawkins’ writing. There will be an ID movement for as long as high school biology teachers insist on teaching evolution in science classes.
I think we are seeing the typical reaction from a religious scientist who knows that the evidence for evolution can not be gainsaid, but who nonetheless wants to leave room for science to acknowledge the divine. She can see for herself that the arguments promoted by folks like Behe are scientifically worthless, but at the same time she is sympathetic to their goals. That is why she feels that a review of Behe’s book must include a knee-jerk criticism of people more overtly hostile to ID, especially the hated Dawkins.
Roughgarden has quite a few other choice nuggets in her review, but I’ll leave it to the comments to flesh those out. Mostly, I’m afraid it’s a rather disappointing effort.