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Michael Behe’s response to Lehigh colleagues’ criticism


Some of Michael Behe’s colleagues wrote a critical review of his book Darwin Devolves here:

By reviewing Behe’s latest book, we run the risk of drawing attention—or worse, giving credibility—to his ideas. Books like Darwin Devolves, however, must be openly challenged and refuted, even if it risks giving publicity to misbegotten views. Science benefits from public support. Largely funded by federal grants, scientists have a moral responsibility (if not a financial obligation) to ensure that the core concepts of our respective fields are communicated effectively and accurately to the public and to our trainees. This is particularly important in evolutionary biology, where—over 150 years after On the Origin of Species—less than 20% of Americans accept that humans evolved by natural and unguided processes (Gallup 2014). It is hard to think of any other discipline where mainstream acceptance of its core paradigm is more at odds with the scientific consensus.

Why evolution by natural selection is difficult for so many to accept is beyond the scope of this review; however, it is not for a lack of evidence: the data (only some of which we present here) are more than sufficient to convince any open minded skeptic that unguided evolution is capable of generating complex systems. A combination of social and historical factors creates a welcoming environment for an academic voice that questions the scientific consensus. Darwin Devolves was designed to fit this niche. Gregory I. Lang Amber M. Rice, “Evolution unscathed: Darwin Devolves argues on weak reasoning that unguided evolution is a destructive force, incapable of innovation” at Evolution

and Behe has responded as follows:

They begin with logical error #1 by deriding the First Rule of Adaptive Evolution as a “quality sound bite” that is “simplistic and untruthful to the data.” Recall that the First Rule states, “Break or blunt any functional gene whose loss would increase the number of a species’ offspring.” Also recall that I explained, in both the book and the journal article where it was first published, that it is called a “rule” in the sense of being a rule of thumb, not an unbreakable law, and it is called the “first” rule because that is what we should generally expect to happen first to help a species adapt, simply because there are many more ways to break a gene than to build a new constructive feature.

As you might imagine, I have read the Evolution review closely. Yet nowhere do the authors even try to show why the First Rule isn’t a correct statement. They point to mutations that are not degradative, but fail to show quantitatively that those other types will arise faster than degradative ones. In fact, the other types are expected to be orders of magnitude slower.

The reviewers agree that the First Rule is fine for explaining many results from the experimental evolution of microbes such as bacteria and yeast, but they balk at extending it beyond the lab. In fact, they actively argue that lab results really can’t tell us much about the real world: “No deletion is beneficial in all environments and beneficial loss of function mutations that arise in experimental evolution are unlikely to succeed if, say, cells are required to mate , the static environment is disturbed, or glucose is temporarily depleted.” All of those situations, of course, will be common outside a laboratory.Michael Behe, “A Response to My Lehigh Colleagues, Part 1” at Evolution News and Science Today:

If Behe’s critics were right, new life forms would be popping into existence all the time. But increasingly, political correctness matters so much more than truth to nature that we will be hearing stranger things yet about the Darwinian magic they espouse.

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See also: Michael Behe: How To Tell If Scientists Are Bluffing

It's only a matter of time before Lehigh posts a disclaimer on its website warning students of tenured faculty who can't be fired for continuing to espouse Darwin's outdated Theory of Unintelligent Design. Battman
Have Dr Behe’s colleagues responded yet? When that happens, can somebody comment on it here? PeterA
“research on Alzheimer’s may have been misdirected for decades based on premature adoption of an incorrect theory.” https://thebulwark.com/why-i-dont-believe-in-science/ https://www.upi.com/Failure-of-Alzheimers-drugs-in-trials-makes-researchers-wonder-what-is-going-wrong/5521516912572/ PeterA
The biology research literature contains many instances of words like "machine", "design", "choreography", "circuit", "feedback loop", "feedforward loop", which denote close analogy to the product of engineering activity performed by conscious agents that understand meaning and have purpose. Dr Behe and anybody for that matter can use those terms anytime anywhere. Why not? "if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck" PeterA
Jawa, thanks again for your help. PeterA
PeterA, you're very welcome! BTW, I already let them know at EN about the problem you found. jawa
jawa, Thanks for the tip. PeterA
PeterA @2:
Can someone pass this to the EN website editors? In the second part of the response: https://evolutionnews.org/2019/03/response-to-my-lehigh-colleagues-part-2/ In the paragraph starting “The third and most serious problem” This text seems to need reviewing to remove a dot that got in: “Yet al.l those proteins do pretty much the same thing,”
You may contact directly the EN editors. On their website at the bottom select the link "Contact" tat points to https://evolutionnews.org/contact/ jawa
In the part 3 of his response Dr Behe cited this paper:
The 26S Proteasome: A Molecular Machine Designed for Controlled Proteolysis Annual Review of Biochemistry Vol. 68:1015-1068 (Volume publication date July 1999) https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.biochem.68.1.1015 D. Voges, P. Zwickl, W. Baumeister
That title not only says “machine” but also “designed”. Was that acceptable as politically correct back then? :) PeterA
Dr Behe’s response (part 2): “the generality of punctuated equilibrium reminds us that the same situation — quick and dirty mutations either stalling or completely preventing constructive ones — is expected to be very frequent on Darwinian principles.” PeterA
A text quoted by Dr Behe has two statements: #1: “gene loss is an evolutionary mechanism for adaptation that may be more widespread than previously anticipated” #2: “investigating gene losses has great potential to reveal the genomic basis underlying macroevolutionary changes” The #2 is not even wrong. In order to correctly explain the so-called “macroevolutionary changes” they will have to accurately explain the differences between developmental processe (regulatory networks, signaling pathways, etc) when carefully comparing ancestors and descendants. PeterA
It seems like Dr Behe’s critics would seriously conclude that the Hotel California described by the famous Eagles’ song must be a very desirable place to have a pleasant family vacation for a week, because it’s repeatedly advertised as “such a lovely place”. :) PeterA
Here’s one of the various instances where Dr Behe accurately describes his critics’ errors: “It must take Darwinian tunnel vision to cite a paper that emphasizes how a complex ancestor gave rise to simpler yeast species by losing abilities over time as support for arguing that Darwinian evolution can build complexity.“ “As sequencing data becomes more plentiful and accurate, more papers are being published that show the importance of loss-of-function from more-complex states in evolution” PeterA
Can someone pass this to the EN website editors? In the second part of the response: https://evolutionnews.org/2019/03/response-to-my-lehigh-colleagues-part-2/ In the paragraph starting “The third and most serious problem” This text seems to need reviewing to remove a dot that got in: “Yet al.l those proteins do pretty much the same thing,” PeterA
"political correctness matters so much more than truth" Yes, exactly. And this is true across the board, not just in Biology. vmahuna

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