Pharyngula

Behe gets another thumbs-down

Has anyone seen a positive review of Behe’s book from a science source? Discover Magazine joins the ranks of those that find it awful:

As unpersuasive as Behe’s ideas are scientifically, they are even less convincing philosophically. Behe professes agnosticism on whether the designer was a dope, a demon, or a deity, although he seems peculiarly inclined toward the second possibility. His is a strangely impoverished worldview, one that leaves little space for awe, much less for future scientific advance; he never even raises the obvious question of who the designer is and how it works. Contrast this with Darwin’s starry-eyed summation in Origin of Species: “There is grandeur in this view of life . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

That’s pretty much my opinion, too. It’s a bizarre exercise in bogus math and bad biology to arrive at a sterile conclusion, with no reasonable future scientific efforts proposed.

Comments

  1. #1 BT Murtagh
    July 30, 2007

    That’s what I can never understand: why do these people cling so desperately, in the face of all reason and evidence, to such idiotic, puerile, immature and unproductive fantasies?

  2. #2 CalGeorge
    July 30, 2007

    May his book sink gently to the bottom of myriad water-filled oval bowls and feel the downward tug of the spiralling waters.

  3. #3 mijnheer
    July 30, 2007

    “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one….” Funny how that bit got left out.

    Or how about this, from one page previous in The Origin: “Authors of the highest eminence seem to be fully satisfied with the view that each species has been independently created. To my mind it accords better with what we know of the laws impressed on matter by the Creator, that the production and extinction of the past and present inhabitants of the world should have been due to secondary causes, like those determining the birth and death of the individual.”

    Well, at least Darwin pushes intelligent design back to the beginning of life on this planet.

  4. #4 Mike Fox
    July 30, 2007

    I’ve actually always found the biblical suggestions that Lucifer had a large hand in the biblical creation of the universe quite persuasive. It basically goes like this: God made the universe, then shoved Lucifer into it. The universe sucked, so the Holy Spirit balanced out the feng shui. That made it possible for God to enter an otherwise wicked world and make stuff.

    Of course, I don’t believe that crap. But it is a much more interesting POV than the Jesus fart making everything perfect only for man to eat a fig and destroy God’s supposed greatness. It also would explain why people think God would tell them to murder if it were true.

  5. #5 Martin Wagner
    July 30, 2007

    That’s what I can never understand: why do these people cling so desperately, in the face of all reason and evidence, to such idiotic, puerile, immature and unproductive fantasies?

    Because religion is fed by emotion and not reason. If there’s no Designer (God), then there’s no Heaven for them to go to when they die. Boo scary.

    Accepting death is something religionists have a hard time with. You’re probably familiar with the five stages of grief: denial, anger, negotiation, despair, acceptance. Most atheists find that once you get to step four, it passes pretty quickly, and you can move on. Vis a vis death, religion stymies the whole process at the negotiation phase, leading to a lifelong pattern of behaviors designed to do nothing but please the deity whom they believe will give them the thumbs-up or thumbs-down when it’s time to meet the Reaper. In the worst cases this can lead to some heavy neuroses, but in most, it simply leads to a life built on delusion and false comforts.

  6. #6 hoary puccoon
    July 30, 2007

    Mijnheer– What you wrote is quite true. Furthermore, Darwin never mentioned genes, DNA, australopithecines, or potassium-argon dating. Which is why scientists don’t treat his work as gospel.

  7. #7 386sx
    July 30, 2007

    I saw a debate where Wells said they need about 30 more years before they actually have something convincing. And then after that he was complaining about how T. rex had tiny arms and big legs but somehow managed to turn into a birdie. (Or words to that effect.)

  8. #8 386sx
    July 30, 2007

    That’s what I can never understand: why do these people cling so desperately, in the face of all reason and evidence, to such idiotic, puerile, immature and unproductive fantasies?

    Very simple. It’s because birdie Jesus wants them too. Fly, fly away. Fly birdie Jesus, fly!!

  9. #9 Great White Shark
    July 30, 2007

    It’s a bizarre exercise in bogus math and bad biology to arrive at a sterile conclusion, with no reasonable future scientific efforts proposed.

    Is this Behe’s book or the Koran we’re talking about?

    I’m having difficulty getting my claspers around either.

  10. #10 Scott Hatfield, OM
    July 30, 2007

    mijhneer:

    Don’t read too much into Darwin’s allusions to the action of the Creator!

    In the first place, some of the more explicit language did not appear in the original edition and was added, with reluctance, to soothe believers in the second edition.

    In the second place, Darwin himself on more than one occasion expressed the view that he felt unable to say anything worth repeating on the details of Creation, or if, indeed, anything could be known about the Creator. Read his correspondence with Asa Gray, or his discussion of his private views that he wrote down for his children, and this will be clear.

    Besides, even if Darwin allowed a redoubt for the workings of the Creator through natural law, an outpost for the Designer, he surely would’ve rejected the modern ID movement as both bad science and a catspaw for the sort of Christianity that (as Gould so nicely put it) ‘he could never hold with conventional zeal.’

  11. #11 John Pieret
    July 30, 2007

    Instead of a strangely impoverished sterile conclusion, I’d call it a deliberate ploy to make a seemingly scientific case that evidence for God exists, which has been, as much as possible, calculatingly stripped of any reference to God, in an attempt to pass Constitutional muster and enable the use of taxpayer money to support religion.

    It is most definitely impoverished and it has been sterile so far (but the Supreme Court is very different now than when Edwards was decided). So there is nothing strange about this attempt to raid the public coffers, as long as you keep in mind the real motive.

  12. #12 Jon Eccles
    July 30, 2007

    Because religion is fed by emotion and not reason. If there’s no Designer (God), then there’s no Heaven for them to go to when they die. Boo scary.

    Actually, I’m not sure how important a factor that is. Here in the UK we presumably have equal reasons to fear death, and yet religion is much less virulent. In a survey last year, when asked if they were religious, 64% said no.

    If we want to understand the causes of religious belief, perhaps we need to think less about universals, and more about social differences between societies which have strong religious belief and those which don’t.

  13. #13 Sampo Rassi
    July 30, 2007

    Darwin’s closing summation of “The Origin” is, to me, one of the great passages written on the philosophy of non-theistic worldview. I became familiar with it after reading Science of the Discworld III: Darwin’s Watch, which is a really rather funny look at the life of the man and his discovery, as seen from the eyes from a bunch of wizards floating through space on a flat, turtle-borne world.

    BTW, has anyone else seen this: Stephen Hawking recanting evolution? A rather silly bit of hoaxing, which fundamentally misses the point. We don’t believe in evolution because Hawking or Dawkins of Hitchens or Myers tells us, (and not just because we don’t “believe” in it per se). The rational viewpoint is simply not authoritarian.

    Even if Darwin had recanted on his deathbed, nothing would be different today.

  14. #14 Steve LaBonne
    July 30, 2007

    In a survey last year, when asked if they were religious, 64% said no.

    But how many of those have vague “spiritual” beliefs about a “higher power”- and, of course and more to the point here, about “souls”?

  15. #15 negentropyeater
    July 30, 2007

    This Discover Magazine article points out the fact that “cell biologists and Biochemists are increasingly finding that protein interactions and networks are easy to evolve”.

    I’m very interested to find out more about this. Can anyone point to some good websites / books / articles ?

    Thanks

  16. #16 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 30, 2007

    Added to the list, although it’s certainly one of the less technical entries present.

  17. #17 David
    July 30, 2007

    –If we want to understand the causes of religious belief, perhaps we need to think less about universals, and more about social differences between societies which have strong religious belief and those which don’t.–

    Just to go out on a limb here… but a possible cause of religious belief?

    People become convinced that it’s true.

  18. #18 Glenn
    July 30, 2007

    Thank you,mijnheer.

    Sampo Rassi wrote:

    Even if Darwin had recanted on his deathbed, nothing would be different today.

    True, and what interests me about the Darwin quotes is the potential they have for explaining to an IDer who refers to evil “Darwinists” that we’re not Darwinists. What we revere is the truth, not a person.

    Next time I hear one of these people refer to “Darwinists” or “Darwinism,” I’ll say, “Did you know Darwin believed in intelligent design? Consider these quotes from the Origin of Species. They’re rubbish. We believe things because they’re true, not because Darwin or anyone else said them.”

  19. #19 Jonathan Vos Post
    July 30, 2007

    Darwin had to give ritual lip service to, not only Theist and more orthodox society at large, but his own orthodox Christian wife. His personal beliefs need not have suffered such compromises. We no longer need to ritually sacrifice our rationality to Mrs. Darwin.

  20. #20 Mats
    July 30, 2007

    Has anyone seen a positive review of Behe’s book from a science source?

    It depends on how you define “science source”. I am pretty much sure that your definition of “science source” is tautological:

    1. Science sources are the ones which accept evolution.
    2. If the “science source” doesn’t accept evolution, then it is not a “science source” in the first place.
    3. And we know that evolution is true because the “science sources” tell us so.
    4. And how do we know that those science sources are reliable? Well, because they accept evolution, obviously.

    So, basically, that can be more clearly shown by the sentence:
    “Those science sources which accept evolution, accept evolution”

  21. #21 MyaR
    July 30, 2007

    The rational viewpoint is simply not authoritarian.

    This is the key, I think, and what is so difficult. If you don’t realize that you are allowed to actually think, you assume other people are operating on the same principles, namely received “wisdom”.

  22. #22 MyaR
    July 30, 2007

    With a classic example of authoritarian thinking @ #20.

  23. #23 Kseniya
    July 30, 2007

    I nominate Mats for the 2007 Ray Bolger Award.

  24. #24 Steve_C
    July 30, 2007

    I think he’s more likely to get the Yogi Berra Award.

  25. #25 Steve_C
    July 30, 2007

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Yogi_Berra

    90 percent of putts that fall short don’t go in.
    A home opener is always exciting, no matter if it’s home or on the road.
    Don’t get me right, I’m just asking!
    No one goes there any more, it’s too crowded.
    A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.
    Always go to other peoples’ funerals otherwise they won’t go to yours.

  26. #26 Arnosium Upinarum
    July 30, 2007

    Glenn #18: “We believe things because they’re true..”

    Nope. We believe things because we THINK they are true. BIG DIFFERENCE.

  27. #27 Glenn
    July 30, 2007

    Arnosium Upinarum #26: True, we do believe things because we think they’re true, but not such a big difference, really. The point is, if you show us the facts are different from what we believed, we change our minds. This is a BIG DIFFERENCE from believing something because someone–say Darwin, the Pope or “Matthew”–said so.

    Is this obscure or abstruse? Am I pointing out something we didn’t know?

  28. #28 raven
    July 30, 2007

    I saw a debate where Wells said they need about 30 more years before they actually have something convincing.

    For the DI and their pseudoscientists, a lot of this by now is just keeping a paycheck coming. We all have to eat and pay bills. They have an easy job, produce handwaving pseudoscience and sit on the sidelines and take potshots at real science as it advances.

    In a worst case scenario they might have to get real jobs and do something useful.

  29. #29 SLC
    July 30, 2007

    Re Jonathan Vos Post

    I recall reading somewhere that Mrs. Darwin was a unitarian.

  30. #30 mojoandy
    July 30, 2007

    Has there yet been a thread on Behe’s Amazon response to the review by Richard Dawkins in the NYT?

    (Sorry, I’ve been on vacation in France and – quelle horreur – have been behind on Pharyngula and the blog search didn’t turn up anything.)

    It’s comical how the majority of his response doesn’t seem to me (particularly the laughable pot/kettle business) to actually address the points made by Dawkins. Any actual biologists (as opposed to anti-Behe fanboys like myself) have comments on the meat of Behe’s rebuttal?

  31. #31 Ego, Egoing, Egone
    July 30, 2007

    My favorite things to do with Behe’s books is to move them from the desperately small science section of my local bookstore (rhymes with Shmorders) and randomly restock them in the depressingly large religion section.

  32. #32 fardels bear
    July 30, 2007

    Darwin was arguing for a theory that explained organic form NOT the origin of life. He was answering the question, “Why do organisms have the form they do?” NOT “Where did life come from?” Like Newton, who made no hypothesis about what gravity was, Darwin made no hypothesis about the origin of life. It was the origin of SPECIES not the origin of LIFE.

    And, given the proper scientific idiom of the time was natural theology (at least it was in Britain), we shouldn’t be surprised by the phrase, “having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one.” That was just accepted scientific style for the time. And yes, by the second edition, it became, “having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one” to appease the worried.

  33. #33 twincats
    July 30, 2007

    Is this Behe’s book or the Koran we’re talking about? I’m having difficulty getting my claspers around either.

    LOL! I see I’m (probably) not the only one who reads these blog entries backwards!

  34. #34 Blake Stacey, OM
    July 30, 2007

    mojoandy (#30):

    It’s comical how the majority of his response doesn’t seem to me (particularly the laughable pot/kettle business) to actually address the points made by Dawkins. Any actual biologists (as opposed to anti-Behe fanboys like myself) have comments on the meat of Behe’s rebuttal?

    Jerry Coyne does a bit of that, although his piece is mostly a rebuttal of Behe’s response to Coyne’s original review.

  35. #35 minimalist
    July 30, 2007

    It’s a bizarre exercise in bogus math and bad biology to arrive at a sterile conclusion, with no reasonable future scientific efforts proposed.

    Right, but you’re assuming that Behe’s readers necessarily agree with (much less understand) the ‘science’ he’s slinging around, or the implications. All they seek is a pseudoscientific rationale they can graft their own god-belief onto. I guarantee, the words themselves are a half-understood blur to them.

    Most creationists online that I’ve seen who have claimed to read Edge seemed unaware of Behe’s “Devil as Designer” position or blithely turned a blind eye to it. The lack of overt religiosity in the book is not just a political cover for their true motives, it’s a convenient blank spot for the reader to paste their own beliefs onto.

    (I’d wager most of his readers are Protestants who’d be aghast that Behe is an idolatratin’, Mary-worshipping, Antichrist-following, baby-eating Catholic.)

  36. #36 mijnheer
    July 30, 2007

    The mention of a Creator that I quoted above is from the First Edition of The Origin of Species. Darwin’s main point, however, was that, even assuming that God had created the universe in the first place, it operated subsequently according to unvarying laws of nature, without the need for divine intervention — a thesis at odds with ID. But it is rather disingenuous of Discover magazine to elide Darwin’s nod to a Creator.

  37. #37 fardels bear
    July 30, 2007

    Not disingenuous at all, mijnheer. My point was that the text they ellipsed out (is that the right verb?) was superfluous to Darwin’s argument in his book and nicely tightened up the sentence. YOU were the one who dredged up a mention of the creator from someplace else in the book.

    And, in the first edition of the ORIGIN, the Creator is not mentioned in the “this view of life” sentence. It got stuck in there in the second edition, which was only 6 weeks after the first edition, if memory serves.

  38. #38 Jonathan Vos Post
    July 30, 2007

    #29: Evolution in action: finches, monkeyflowers, sockeye salmon, and bacteria are changing before our eyes
    Natural History, Nov, 2005 by Jonathan Weiner

    Charles Darwin’s wife, Emma, was terrified that they would be separated for eternity, because she would go to heaven and he would not. Emma confessed her fears in a letter that Charles kept and treasured, with his reply to her scribbled in the margin: “When I am dead, know that many times, I have kissed and cryed over this.”

    Close as they were, the two could hardly bear to talk about Darwin’s view of life. And today, those of us who live in the United States, by many measures the world’s leading scientific nation, find ourselves in a house divided. Half of us accept Darwin’s theory, half of us reject it, and many people are convinced that Darwin burns in hell. I find that old debate particularly strange, because I’ve spent some of the best years of my life as a science writer peering over the shoulders of biologists who actually watch Darwin’s process in action. What they can see casts the whole debate in a new light–or it should.

    Also:

    These small pocket diaries of Emma Wedgwood Darwin (1808-1896), the wife of Charles Darwin…

    http://darwin-online.org.uk/EmmaDiaries.html

  39. #39 Tully Bascomb
    July 31, 2007

    Behe’s recent appearance on BookTV (CSPAN2) was quite astounding — slide by slide a man who demonstrates a purposeful ignorance of evolution, Darwin’s theories, biology, biochemisty (in spite of possessing a Phd. in the field), etc. He begins with a mousetrap slide, then a flagellum slide (the motor analogy again), on and on, his entire thought process chained to analogy. Behe can’t seem to advance his shtick one millimeter.

    But my biggest complaint is his basic approach — irreducible complexity is a proven fact (whatever it is), and because of this there are problems with Darwinian evolution. And he has a bunch of cartoons to prove it.
    jeesh!

  40. #40 SteveF
    July 31, 2007

    Larry Moran has an interesting (and highly critical) take on the Powell review. Basically, Larry says it’s a strawman that ignores much of what Behe says. If this is correct (and Larry provides good evidence to suggest that it is), maybe this isn’t an article we should be trumpeting.

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