Thursday, July 12, 2007

Michael Behe Responds to Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne on Dog Breeding

Related to my last two posts, here is Michael Behe in his own words on Richard Dawkins' ridiculous dog breeding example:


Finally, I note that Behe’s “response” completely ignores two devastating criticisms of his “scientific” theory. First, as both Dawkins and I point out, if random mutations can’t build complexity, how can they possibly have been so effective in artificial selection of plants and animals?


Because, of course, the genomes of many plants and animals already contain much developmental plasticity. Turning some existing genes or regulatory elements on or off, or tuning them up or down, or changing them slightly by simple, single mutations, can certainly affect the shapes and other properties of organisms somewhat. Artificial selection for such variants can easily explain dog breeds and such, as I noted in Chapter 9. But of course that begs the question of where the complex systems controlling the organisms’ development came from.

Now, was that really supposed to be a “devastating” criticism of my argument? Frankly, I’m a bit perplexed by this line of reply from Coyne and Dawkins. In The Edge of Evolution, and in Darwin’s Black Box before it, I strongly emphasized that modern biology shows us that life is built upon intricate molecular systems, and that to understand the limits of random mutation and thus Darwin’s theory, we have to concentrate our attention on the molecular level. I readily said that answers to questions about animal shape and other macrobiological properties would have to await elucidation of the molecular underpinnings of those properties. In The Edge of Evolution I argued that some biological levels (down to vertebrate class) could not be explained by Darwinism, but I based my argument entirely on advances in our knowledge of the complexity of the molecular developmental systems underpinning them. Even though I suspect Darwinism is also ineffective at lower biological levels, I stopped at the level of vertebrate class because, as I wrote, “at this point our reliable molecular data runs out, so a reasonably firm answer will have to await further research.”

It does not engage my argument, then, for Professors Coyne and Dawkins simply to point out that varieties of dogs come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. To actually engage my argument, a reviewer has to argue from molecular properties.

On that Amazon blog, Behe has more responses to Coyne and other critics. Go ahead and buy his book while you are there.


At July 17, 2007 7:28 PM, Anonymous Jim Sherwood said...

Why did Dawkins come out with this irrelevant "dogs" stuff?

No doubt he's a true believer in Darwinism. So although he probably sees that Behe has a powerful argument, he still thinks that it must be wrong, somehow! For Darwinism must be right!

So, instead of addressing Behe's argument, he simply comes up with rhetoric in an effort to keep people from reading the book:

"I'll woof about dogs," says Dawkins,
Then how will they deal with my mockin's?
Each beast has its day,
And although they may say
Mine's past, I'll keep up my squawkin's:

"And how will they handle the whirl
Of words that my mouth can unfurl?
Though my science be lacking
In factual backing,
They'll fear the phrases I hurl."


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