Thursday, August 07, 2008

Steve Matheson has a great post, pretty much summing up why his fellow biologists (religious or otherwise) don't take Michael Behe seriously:
Behe has excused himself from the company of those who seriously study evolutionary science, and has done this by approaching the complex and fascinating analysis of evolutionary genetics with a malignant combination of arrogant condescension and pitiful ignorance. (Or, alternatively, his integrity has been somehow compromised.) You see, it actually doesn't matter how you couch your words when the message to an entire field of science (about which you know relatively little) is: "Hey, guys, give it up; I just figgered the whole thing out." In fact, in my opinion, there's something pretty creepy about a bland smile on the face of an undistinguished biochemist who claims to have overturned a century of work by some of the best minds in the history of biology.

There is only one new scientific idea in TEoE: Behe claims that random mutation rates are insufficient to generate the genetic diversity that is necessary for evolutionary change. That's it. That is an empirical claim, one that leads to some clear predictions. The claim is, at least in principle, testable. It's not theology, it's not metaphysics, and it doesn't have anything specific to do with "complexity" or any other doctrine of Intelligent Design. Behe's hypothesis, that random mutation cannot drive evolutionary change, is a scientific hypothesis of significant import that should have been carefully constructed and vetted by the professional scientific community. But as near as I can tell, the claim was never subjected to peer review. As far as I know, Behe has not completely formulated his hypothesis (by, for example, analyzing actual measurements of genetic variation in living organisms), and has not attempted to publish it in the professional literature or even to present it to a gathering of scientific experts. Instead, he wrote a popular book, aimed at a lay audience. His ideas are, in fact, almost completely without merit, but even if his radical hypothesis were worthy of scientific consideration, his choice to abandon the scientific community – and to eschew even the most basic review of his proposals by known experts – is an expression of arrogance and contempt that is difficult to overstate.
Indeed. It would not surprise me if Behe somewhere along the line did decide the paychecks he gets from the Discovery Institute are worth the alienation from his colleagues.

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