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.

More like this

Another review of Behe's book, The Edge of Evolution, has been published, this time in Nature and by Ken Miller. This one focuses on Behe's central claim, that he has identified a probabilistic limit to what evolution can do that means no differences above roughly the genus level (and in many cases…
At least one metaphorical wolf, that is: Richard Dawkins reviews The Edge of Evolution (behind the NYT Select paywall, sorry). Again, he focuses on the argument from improbability that is at the heart of Behe's book, and he comes up with a clear counter-example: if Behe were right, the…
Jason Rosenhouse has already noted that Tom Woodward opined that "in the next six to twelve months, Darwinism will go into a steep nose dive as the result of Behe’s new book." How is this "tremendously important" book going to change the landscape of ID? Early indications appear to say ... not at…
Ken Miller has now published his review of Behe's latest. He did an excellent job. I think he really nailed some of Behe's more egregious mathematical errors: Behe, incredibly, thinks he has determined the odds of a mutation "of the same complexity" occurring in the human line. He hasn't. What…

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