Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Richard Dawkins Tries to Refute Behe With Dog Breeding

I was astounded to read Richard Dawkins' attempt at a review of Michael Behe's most recent book. It is not much of an attempt. It is more of an attempt at personal ridicule.

In any case, Dawkins actually pulls out intentional dog breeding as an argument to refute Behe:

Now, if you sought an experimental test of Behe’s theory, what would you do? You’d take a wild species, say a wolf that hunts caribou by long pursuit, and apply selection experimentally to see if you could breed, say, a dogged little wolf that chivies rabbits underground: let’s call it a Jack Russell terrier. Or how about an adorable, fluffy pet wolf called, for the sake of argument, a Pekingese? Or a heavyset, thick-coated wolf, strong enough to carry a cask of brandy, that thrives in Alpine passes and might be named after one of them, the St. Bernard? Behe has to predict that you’d wait till hell freezes over, but the necessary mutations would not be forthcoming. Your wolves would stubbornly remain unchanged. Dogs are a mathematical impossibility.

Don’t evade the point by protesting that dog breeding is a form of intelligent design. It is (kind of) . . . .

That last line is an attempt to anticipate the obvious response- dog breeding is not natural selection but is an excellent example of intelligent design. Dog breeding works because you have human dog breeders selecting the dogs for breeding.

More importantly, even with intentional selection, you only end up with dogs and more dogs- all the same species. This is microevolution, which is well established and is not controversial. Dog breeding is actually an example of the inherent limits to variation, even with human input.

In any case, Dawkins argument is blatantly fallacious, and embarrassingly so. The fact that Dawkins has to resort to such a bad argument should tell you that he does not have any really good arguments to use instead. "Bad arguments" continue and continue and continue to convince me.

No one denies variation within species. The question is whether random mutation and natural selection can produce all the varieties of species, families, orders and phyla that we see around us. Intentional, controlled dog breeding does not tell us. Suggesting that it does is misleading at best.


At July 10, 2007 8:13 PM, Blogger Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

I know this isn't a logical refutation... but I read the first page of the link and all I can think of is: "Oh dear lord. I hope I'm not that bad when I think I'm losing and I'm being officious so I don't have to back down."

The guy sounds like an utter git.

At July 14, 2007 5:10 PM, Blogger vargas said...

I thought that Phillip E. Johnson had torn down that particular argument in Darwin On Trial.

They're still using it these days? Wow.

At July 19, 2007 7:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is scant evidence that the great variety of canines came about because of mutations. The genes thoat code for the characteristics of a Maltese and the characteristics of a Mastiff are all present in the wild wolf or coyote and can be brought to the fore with proper breeding techniques. Clearly, Dawkins doesn't understand this.

I attempted to debate Dawkins once during a Q & A following a talk at Depauw University. It ended abruptly when he refused to answer my questions.

At July 23, 2007 6:55 PM, Anonymous Lawrence said...


Thanks for that. I was wondering what part of dog breeding was working with "mutations," and what part was working with natural variation without mutations.

Do you have a cite to anything discussing this?


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