Before dealing with Edge of Evolution, which I see as a turning point in the debate between Darwinism and intelligent design, permit me to briefly sketch the cultural landscape in which it has just appeared:
… , two factors have protected Darwin as he approaches his 200th birthday – his friends and his enemies.
In Darwin’s Black Box, Behe was concerned to show that some elegant structures in life are beyond the reach of random mutation and natural selection (= Darwinism). In The Edge of Evolution , he seeks to draw up “reasonable, general guidelines” to determine where the edge of evolution is, “to decide with some precision beyond what point Darwinian explanations are unlikely to be adequate, not just for some particular structures but for general features of life.” (8)
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He studies in detail a number of cases where Darwinian evolution is known to have occurred. That is, the exact mechanisms of the changes that took place in the malaria parasite, E. coli, and HIV have been identified, and the change appears to have been caused by natural selection acting on random mutations. The vast numbers and the swiftness with which these microorganisms reproduce enable a rate of evolution that is equivalent to millions of years of evolutionary time for larger organisms. Thus, an estimate of the limits of Darwinian change is possible.
Dawkins is never short of adoring fans, and evidently the delight is mutual. … Dawkins revels in his contempt for Behe (a working scientist, not a don like himself) and then distracts his readers by pointing, with self-indulgent glee, to the large variety in the shapes and sizes of domestic dogs, as “proving” Behe wrong. Come to think of it, how could Behe be so dense as not to have noticed the dogs in the park?
But Dawkins is evading the issue, of course. Dog breeding emphasizes some available canine traits at the expense of others. The dog need not evolve a new post-canine trait. That is precisely what Dawkins, famously, claims that Darwinism can do. And Behe, controversially, shows that, in the very situations where Darwinism can actually be tested, Darwinism does that too rarely to merit the role it is given.