The list of reviews and follow-ups to reviews continues to grow. The reality-based community has not been kind to Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution, and they’re expressing their reasons why with wit and verve.
The latest addition to the list comes from Jerry Coyne, professor at the University of Chicago. Entitled “The Great Mutator,” a free copy can be found here. I quote the final three paragraphs below the fold, with some added links for the folks who like extra reading.
In the end, The Edge of Evolution is not an advance or a refinement of the theory of intelligent design, but a retreat from its original claims—an act of desperation designed to maintain credibility in a world of scientific progress. But it is all for nothing, because Behe’s new theory remains the same old mixture of dead science and thinly disguised theology. There is no evidence for his main claim of non-random mutation, and scientists have plenty of evidence against it. His arguments against the Darwinian evolution of complex organisms are flawed and misleading. And there is not a shred of evidence supporting his claim that the goal of evolution is intelligent life. In contrast to the feast of evidence that nourishes evolutionary theory, Behe gives us an empty plate.
The overweening strategy of IDers, and their creationist forebears, is to say that everything that we do not understand is evidence of the existence of God. I can imagine IDers of two centuries ago claiming that God made the sun shine, because until 1938 we had no idea where all that energy came from. It was not until quantum mechanics arrived out of left field that the physicist Hans Bethe was able to surmise, correctly, that the sun is a giant fusion reactor, converting hydrogen atoms into helium and energy. Who knew?
One of the great joys of science is that we never know what will happen next. Who could have guessed twenty years ago that dinosaurs probably became extinct after a giant meteorite collided with Earth and produced a “nuclear winter”? IDers would deprive us of this essential excitement, urging us to stop working when we come up against the hard problems and to ascribe our difficulties to God. They would have us join the herd of the benighted who proclaim so confidently that they have descried the bounds of our knowledge. But this attitude, this philosophy, was anticipated and unmasked by none other than Darwin himself, who was prescient not only about biology, but also about the nature of science: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”
I’ve remarked before that science offers us meal so rich we can hardly choose among the courses, and mongerers of mysticism wish us to starve.