Terra Sigillata

The New York Times Book Review section had a review today of Chris Mooney’s new book, Storm World: Hurricanes, Politics, and the Battle Over Global Warming. (Review here; Chris’ commentary here). The book was just released today and I look forward to reading it.

But continuing on, I couldn’t help noting that Richard Dawkins reviewed Michael Behe’s new book, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism. Dawkins notes the unusual disclaimer from the Department of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University distancing themselves from Behe then spends a lot of time on dogs.

From Newfies to Yorkies, from Weimaraners to water spaniels, from Dalmatians to dachshunds, as I incredulously close this book I seem to hear mocking barks and deep, baying howls of derision from 500 breeds of dogs — every one descended from a timber wolf within a time frame so short as to seem, by geological standards, instantaneous.

I usually don’t get into the evolution/ID wars, but I found Dawkins’ review to be quite excellent.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Frank
    July 2, 2007

    I always enjoy reading Dawkins, and I entirely support the overall sentiment, but the dogs example is not conclusive. I don’t think any of the variation among dog species has been shown to be due to mutation – surely it is almost all due to recombination. From Behe’s point of view all that has happened is that breeders have selected from variation that was already there.

  2. #2 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    July 2, 2007

    I don’t think any of the variation among dog species has been shown to be due to mutation – surely it is almost all due to recombination. From Behe’s point of view all that has happened is that breeders have selected from variation that was already there.

    Where does the variation come from that gets shuffled around in recombination? Bringing up a mechanism for dispersal of mutations does not negate the existence of those mutations.

  3. #3 Elf M. Sternberg
    July 2, 2007

    Mark, Tegumai, the real issue here is that neither point really matters: either the potential for Pomeranians, St. Bernards, Jack Terriers and the hideous Crested Chinese was always inherent within the timberworld, or these potentials emerged via some commonplace evolutionary mechanism, be it “mutation” or “hybridization” or “recombination” or whatever term we wish to throw at it.

    Behe’s claim is that none of these are sufficient, and he has long since backpedaled from the “always inherent” argument because he knows that it’s bunk: evolutionary mechanism have no preservative effect on non-adaptive change. Dawkin’s response is simple: if none of these are sufficient, then we can’t have dogs. Period.

    Since we have dogs, Behe’s at a loss.

  4. #4 Mark Frank
    July 3, 2007

    he has long since backpedaled from the “always inherent”

    I didn’t realise this – in which case the dogs argument is fair enough.