Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Monkeys Uncle

As many reviewers have noted, ID activist Michael Behe's new book, Edge of Evolution, makes a number of large, and in some respects surprising, concessions to evolutionary theory. None larger than his admission that he accepts the evidence for common descent.

As one who listened as Discovery's "expert" witnesses were cross examined by Pedro Irigonegaray at the Kansas Science hearings in Topeka two years ago, I'm well aware that common descent does not go down well with ID activists. The transcripts go far in confirming the witnesses' nearly universal disbelief in common descent, but can in no way convey the deep contempt in their voices for the idea that they might somehow be related to a chimpanzee, much less a flatworm.

And, if a visceral distaste for the notion of common descent predominates among the so-called "experts," you can just imagine how difficult it must be for the biblical literalists who predominate amongst the ranks to swallow.

That's why Discovery, while flogging the book on its Evolution News and Views blog, has also had to undertake some damage control among the faithful.

Today, for example, they've posted an excerpt on common descent from "an enlightening 13 part Q&A [the hand of Luskin!? -- RSR] in which he clarifies his position on a number of issues related to the debate over evolution and intelligent design."

And there's not much there ID's field generals or ranks will find appetizing.
... in judging the likelihood of common descent, I discount problems that could be classified as "how did that get here?" Instead, I give much more weight to the "mistakes" or "useless features" arguments. If some peculiar feature is shared between two species which, as far as we can tell, has no particular function, and which in other contexts we would likely call a genetic accident, then I count that as rather strong evidence for common descent. So, if one looks at the data in the way that I do, then one can say simultaneously that: 1) CD is very well supported; 2) grand Darwinian claims are falsified; 3) ID is confirmed; 4) design extends very deeply into biology.

We agree with Behe that common descent is very well supported. As for falsifying grand Darwinian claims or confirming ID, well as Behe told the court in Dover, it helps if you believe the designer is the God of the Bible.


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