Stranger Fruit

Behe takes two on the chin

The negative reviews of Behe’s Edge of Evolution continue. Kenneth Miller has a review in this week’s Nature and Richard Dawkins will have one in next New York Times Sunday Book Review (available here for NYTimes Select customers).

From the former:

Behe, incredibly, thinks he has determined the odds of a mutation "of the same complexity" occurring in the human line. He hasn’t. What he has actually done is to determine the odds of these two exact mutations occurring simultaneously at precisely the same position in exactly the same gene in a single individual. He then leads his unsuspecting readers to believe that this spurious calculation is a hard and fast statistical barrier to the accumulation of enough variation to drive darwinian evolution.

It would be difficult to imagine a more breathtaking abuse of statistical genetics….

A mistake of this magnitude anywhere in a book on science is bad enough, but Behe has built his entire thesis on this error. Telling his readers that the production of so much as a single new protein-to-protein binding site is "beyond the edge of evolution", he proclaims darwinian evolution to be a hopeless failure. Apparently he has not followed recent studies … Instead, he tells his readers that there is just one explanation that "encompasses the cellular foundation of life as a whole". That explanation, of course, is intelligent design.

From the latter:

If correct, Behe’s calculations would at a stroke confound generations of mathematical geneticists, who have repeatedly shown that evolutionary rates are not limited by mutation. Single-handedly, Behe is taking on Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J. B. S. Haldane, Theodosius Dobzhansky, Richard Lewontin, John Maynard Smith and hundreds of their talented co-workers and intellectual descendants. Notwithstanding the inconvenient existence of dogs, cabbages and pouter pigeons, the entire corpus of mathematical genetics, from 1930 to today, is flat wrong. Michael Behe, the disowned biochemist of Lehigh University, is the only one who has done his sums right. You think?

In related news, Behe has begun to ‘respond” to the reviews by Jerry Coyne & Sean Carroll over at his Amazon Author’s Blog where – predictably – commenting is disabled.


  1. #1 Michael
    June 28, 2007

    Comments are now open on Behe’s reply to Sean Carroll’s review.

  2. #2 Airtightnoodle
    March 19, 2008

    Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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