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Either Design or Common Descent
Michael Behe (2007) The Edge of Evolution. The Search for the Limits of Darwinism,
1. The Search for Intelligent Design TheoryReaders interested in "Intelligent Design Theory" will be disappointed. The reader won't find an exposition of the Intelligent Design Theory. Nine out of ten chapters are about the limitations of neo-Darwinian evolution and the last chapter is about fine-tuning. There is no chapter devoted to design theory. Not even one paragraph describing what design theory actually is. Remarkably, the word "design" does not even appear in the title of the book. Despite the fact that Behe presents himself as an "Intelligent Design proponent". However, I found that the words "intelligent" and "design" do appear frequently in the book:
The phrase "intelligent design theory" does not occur in the book. The only two instances of "design theory" are other people using the word, not Behe describing the theory. Of the 16 occurrences of the words "intelligent design" only one explains the concept with an analogy: "Imagine that, like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, you wash up on a tropical island". But an analogy doesn't constitute a theory. This is really a remarkable fact! Behe has the complete freedom to write about design theory, but no coherent treatment of the theory can be found. Professor Jerry Coyne stated "his theory is flat wrong" (here). But, there is no design theory in this book. There are a bunch of observations and suggestive allusions to a theory. But not a coherent treatment of design theory. Even "nonrandom mutation", which is an important part of Behe's design claims, occurs only 3 times in contrast to "random mutation" which occurs 171 times. Is it really unfair or unreasonable to expect in this book a coherent description of design theory after more than 10 years since his Darwin's Black Box?
If there is no elaborated design theory in the book, then surely there must be at least a strong link between design and the limitations of Darwinian evolution? I will focus on that link in par4. Although there is no elaborated design theory in the book, there is a framework which I will use as a guide for traveling to and beyond The Edge. This framework is important for Behe, it is presented opposite the title page of the book and repeated in the last chapter. I will then zoom into some important details such as common descent and random mutation.
In fact Behe's worldview divides the world into two parts. The middle part is a temporary part, which will be included in the first and/or the third as soon as new knowledge becomes available. For the rest of my discussion I will assume a two-worlds view: the world of design and the world of chance. The dividing line in Behe's two-worlds view is his edge of evolution: what Darwinian evolution cannot do is at the left side and what Darwinism can do is at the right side of the dividing line. At this moment I will not discuss the correctness of this dividing line, but instead I will look at its logical coherence and compatibility with other claims.
2. DESIGN CONFLICTS WITH COMMON DESCENTThe "designed group" contains at least Kingdoms, Phyla, Classes (and maybe Orders, Families and Genera). Behe's "randomness group" cointains at least species (and maybe genera, families and orders).
"Explicit design appears to reach into biology to a certain level, to the level of the vertebrate class, but not necessarily further" (p.220)Apparently the vertebrate class is explicitly designed. That means that at a certain moment in the history of the earth the first vertebrate "was designed". The fundamental problem here is that the reason for invoking design is that natural processes are not sufficient to produce vertebrates. However, as soon as one single nonnatural event is invoked during the history of life, the genetic continuity of life is broken. Common Descent is based on the vertical (sometimes horizontal) transmission of genetic information. Without that genetic continuity, Common Descent breaks down. And, as we will see, Behe accepts Common Descent. Now, have a look at what Behe has to say about breaking the law:
"intelligent design is quite compatible with the view that the universe operates by unbroken natural law, with the design of life perhaps packed into its initial set-up." (p.166)It is great to know that Behe adheres to unbroken natural law, because science is all about discovering natural laws. Furthermore, Common Descent also rests upon unbroken natural law. These two nicely fit together. He apparently senses that explicit design of the vertebrate class conflicts with unbroken law and adds the claim about set-up. Problem fixed? You cannot have it both ways. When "The design of life is perhaps packed into its initial set-up" it is apparently at the origin of life. The "explicit design on the level of the vertebrate class" must have occurred at least 3 billion years later (see: Box "Nonrandom mutation").
So, it is either "The design of life is packed into its initial set-up" or: Kingdoms, Phyla, and Classes are designed
separately. Both cannot be true.
"Biological organisms show the opposite behavior - genes that are useless in the real world are not rewarded; the genes are rapidly lost or degraded by mutation."Indeed, a complete set of genes for vertebrates, and most certainly for bats, whales, and giraffes, will be useless for the first cells and will be lost. Now we have a third contradiction produced by Behe himself: (3) he claims a set-up and he knows a set-up won't work. If you have that many internal contradictions, you don't have a coherent theory. The remarkable thing is that Michael Behe does claim that he accepts Common Descent. It is time to examine what evidence Behe presents for Common Descent. That will show how serious he is about it.
3. BEHE'S EVIDENCE FOR COMMON DESCENT"Let's acknowledge that genetics has yielded yet more terrific (and totally unanticipated) evidence of common descent.". Behe presents 3 proofs for Common Descent:
1. vitamin C pseudogene: "Both humans and chimps have a broken copy of a gene that in other mammals helps make vitamin C." (71); "It's hard to imagine how there could be stronger evidence for common ancestry of chimps and humans." (72)This is the good news: Behe accepts a most important pillar of evolution and he presents evidence for it. But is it really new? No. Behe accepted Common Descent of life already in Darwin's Black Box (DBB) back in 1996. Or did he? Did he present evidence at the time? The hemoglobin pseudogenes are present in his DBB, but amazingly, instead of presenting them as evidence for Common Descent, he attacks them:
"This argument is unconvincing for three reasons. First, because we have not yet discovered a use for a structure does not mean that no use exists." (page 226, DBB).Here Behe argues against Ken Miller. Miller claimed that Intelligent Design cannot explain pseudogenes of hemoglobin in humans, because it would mean that "the designer made serious errors, wasting millions of bases of DNA on a blueprint full of junk. Evolution can explain them as nothing more than failed experiments". Indeed, it is true that in general one cannot conclude from structures with unknown function to no function at all, but the pseudogene is not an unknown structure, but a copy of a known functional gene with mutations which make it non-functional. So Behe's critique fails. Behe's second argument against pseudogenes as evidence for Common Descent is that "even if pseudogenes have no function, evolution has "explained" nothing about how pseudogenes arose" (DBB,226) and his third is that "these chance events do not mean that the initial biochemical systems were not designed." (DBB,228).
My point is not to refute Behe's arguments, but simply point out the amazing and extraordinary fact that Behe in Darwin's Black Box dismissed exactly the same evidence that he now accepts without any explanation. In The Edge he simply states "a broken hemoglobin gene" and forgets that he stated 10 years ago that "this argument is unconvincing for three reasons". What was exactly wrong with his arguments in DBB? He has obviously changed his mind, but he owes his readers an explanation for the change and he owes Miller an apology (7).
Can we really trust Behe's claim that he accepts Common Descent if he did not explain what was wrong with his own arguments in DBB? This is one of the many dilemmas the reader of The Edge has to resolve. If Behe truly believes in Common Descent and unbroken natural law, then there is no place for design (whether as set-up or as interrupting events). If he truly believes in design, then there is no place for Common Descent and unbroken natural law. I concluded above in section 2 that Behe's explicitly designed vertebrate class conflicted with the fundamental genetic continuity underlying Common Descent. Now we have two reasons to doubt Michael Behe's assertion that he accepts Common Descent. We should end our review at this point, but there is still a question unanswered and that is: Why did he split up the world in two partitions in the first place? What is this mysterious Edge of Random Evolution?
4. THE LINK BETWEEN DESIGN AND THE LIMITATIONSBasically, the two-worlds view is based on design, and design is based on the limitations of Darwinian evolution. Here is the link between Design and the Limitations of Darwinian evolution (it is the central claim of The Edge):
"Most mutations that built the great structures of life must have been nonrandom." (p.82)But what is the link between nonrandom mutation and design?
"I'll plainly treat the other side of the edge of evolutionYes, you can plainly treat the other side of the edge of evolution as the domain of design. Or, you can plainly treat this side of the edge of evolution as the domain of design. (Behe gives no reason why a designer could not guide mutations which seem random to us). Or, you can plainly treat both sides of the edge of evolution as the domain of design. The important question is: why should we? Behe does not give the reader any good reason why we should treat the other side of the edge of evolution as the domain of design. This is the weakest link in his book. This basic error can be found in an arbitrary creationist book: "Indeed, the origin of the first self-reproducing system is recognized by many scientists as an unsolved problem for evolution, and thus evidence for a Creator." (9). The point here is that I am not denying limits to the power of evolution (see section 8). The point here is that Behe assumes that the designer would first setup life for evolution, let it run until it halts, add DNA and let it evolve again, until it halts again, add DNA again and let it evolve further until it halts, etc. Why would a designer design by endlessly mutating his designs instead of designing from scratch? Behe does not tell us. If we cannot claim that "God wouldn't have done it that way", Behe himself cannot know that God would have done it in that way either (see section 11).
Furthermore, there is no cognitive gain of introducing an all-powerful designer to solve evolutionary problems. That merely substitutes a process -evolution- which is accessible to human investigation and which has computable limitations, with something -a designer- that has no limitations at all, is essentially incomputable, and is not accessible to human investigation. I prefer the limitations of a natural process, because we at least have a clearly defined problem to focus on and a starting point for further research. Limitations do give us the edge of knowledge. Experience tells us that this eventually triggers new knowledge. Behe confuses the edge of evolution with the edge of our knowledge. Philosopher Philip Kitcher (2007) asks the right question in his Living with Darwin (8):
"Why do intelligent design-ers ignore the basic problem of explaining the power and direction of the mechanism they invoke, a problem that strikes at the heart of their theory?" (p.108)
Behe takes it on himself to find the limitations of Darwinian evolution. His answer is: a process (?) or
a mechanism (?) or a person (?) with no limitations. At least, he does not say what the limitations of the designer
are. Behe does not proceed from a positive theory of a designer with specified goals, methods and power.
These are subjective concepts, not solid scientific notions. Furthermore, Behe did not give a reason why they should be connected with design. We should stop here our review, but just out of curiosity: what are these mysterious nonrandom mutations that are awaiting us at the other side of the edge? Before entering the mysterious world of nonrandom mutations, I must dwell on Behe's claim that Common Descent is independent of the mechanism of evolution.
5. ARE COMMON DESCENT AND THE MECHANISM INDEPENDENT?Behe claims that he has empirical reasons that the standard Darwinian mechanism of random mutation plus natural selection is unable to create the complete tree of life! He rejects that the majority of adaptations at the molecular level are caused by random mutation. Random Mutation and Natural Selection can only create minor adaptations. At the same time he says he fully accepts Common Descent. We have seen his proofs. How can Behe doubt the mechanism of evolution and at the same time accept Common Descent (CD)? How does he do that? and why? It is easy to see why Behe wants the two theories to be independent. It is because he wants to be able to accept full CD and at the same time reject the ability of Random Mutation and Natural Selection to produce to full tree of life. It would be a lot easier, and, yes, elegant, if he rejected both CD and Random Mutation and Natural Selection, or accepted both. According to standard scientific logic, if CD is true than it automatically follows that all species we see are created by Random Mutation and Natural Selection. This is how Darwinists reason and Behe criticises them for it. According to Behe, common descent and the mechanism are two different and independent theories. In support of his claim he quotes Ernst Mayr (1991) One long argument, who distinguished 5 theories in Darwin's work (3). It is true that CD is distinct from the mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutation. But are they independent? No. Maybe they were separate and independent at Darwin's time, but not today. New scientific discoveries have revealed deep connections between previously unconnected theories. So, Mayr is simply not relevant for Behe's argument. I will show that in the next section. Just one nice quote from an author who lumps mechanism and common descent together:
"To say that Darwinian evolution cannot explain everything in nature is not to say that evolution, random mutation, and natural selection do not occur; they have been observed (at least in cases of microevolution) many different times. Like the sequence analysts, I believe the evidence strongly supports common descent." (page 176 Darwin's Black Box)Who is mixing up random mutation and common descent?
6. COMMON DESCENT EVIDENCE DEPENDS ON RANDOM MUTATIONThe link between mechanism and CD is much stronger than Behe realizes. Behe, unknowingly, presents evidence for the fact that CD and mechanism are closely interwoven in the chapter "What Darwinism Can Do". Here are Behe's proofs for Common Descent:
- "Both humans and chimps have a broken copy of a gene that in other mammals helps make vitamin C." (p.71)Please note that these examples are all based on random mutation. Behe describes these broken genes as "mutational mistakes". So, Behe knows that "genetics has supported common descent". The nature of the evidence for CD is random mutation. Whatever his claims about the limitations of Darwinism, Behe uses cases of random mutation as evidence for CD. I think the connection between CD and Random Mutation and Natural Selection could be elaborated much more. Probably all DNA evidence for CD is based on random mutation supplemented with neutral evolution, genetic drift and horizontal gene transfer (5). Immediately following the three proofs of CD, but out of the blue sky, Behe states in italic:
"Something that is nonrandom must account for the common descent of life."
7. WHAT DARWINISM CAN DO: RANDOM MUTATION AND NATURAL SELECTIONAlthough Behe claims that the main driving force of evolutin is nonrandom evolution, it does not follow that he denies any role for random mutation and natural selection. Certainly not. Behe has a chapter "What Darwinism Can Do" in which he presents evidence for the role of random mutation. Behe's evidence for random mutation and natural selection:
Clearly Behe admits here that random mutation and natural selection can produce adaptations. What's more he admits gradual evolution:
-"Although the first mutation (at position 108 of the protein) grants some resistance to the drug [pyrimethamine], the malaria is still vulnerable to larger doses. Adding more mutations (at positions 51, 59, and a few others) can increase the level of resistance. (75)This is significant because his famous concept IC is based on the impossibility of gradual evolution.
8. WHAT DARWINISM CAN'T DO
"If two mutations have to occur before there is a net beneficial effect - if an intermediate state is harmful, or less fit than the starting state - then there is already a big evolutionary problem." (p.106)Is neo-Darwinism "damaged" by these claims? First, Behe's limits of Darwinian evolution are, indeed as he says, tentative. They need peer-review (6), not an Amazon Blog. The question is not whether there are limitations. Limitations do exist. The real question is how to investigate those limitations in a meaningful way. The limitations of the mechanism of evolution are interesting and important for the field of evolutionary biology. The question of limitations of the power of the neo-Darwinian mechanism can appropriately be compared with the question of embryonic development: "Is the information in the fertilised egg of an animal fully sufficient to produce an adult animal or is anything else required?". This historical controversy produced the opposing theories preformation and epigenesis (see beautiful account of Iris Fry: 16). The theory of preformation claimed that the process of development was simply the growing of a miniature organism already present in the egg or sperm. It postulated the divine origin at the moment of the original creation of the germs that contained the future embryos of all living creatures. Compare this with Behe's divinely created DNA in his "set-up scenario". Scientists today are not yet able to give a complete account of embryonic development, but nonetheless work according to the basic assumption that the problem can be solved without resorting to preformatism or vitalism. Similarly, neo-Darwinists today do not have full understanding of all the details of how the tree of life has been produced, nevertheless work according to the assumption that no unnatural mechanisms are needed. As far as I am aware of, no ID-ist accuses embryologists of a naturalistic bias, so why should they accuse evolutionary biologists of such a bias?
Amazingly for such an interesting question, in its full scope it has only been taken up sofar by off-road researchers such as Fred Hoyle, Lee Spetner and Mark A. Ludwig (19), who primarily seek the shortest way to refute neo-Darwinism. Which is a pity. The question of limitations of the mechanism of evolution is worthy of serious unbiased investigation, but mainstream attempts are disappointing too (17). Behe quoted evolutionary biologist H. A. Orr (5). But Orr does not dwell on the question what his results mean for evolution as a whole. Which is a pity. Yet, the goal of making the theory of evolution more exact and predictive is a perfect scientific goal. To be able to estimate or compute the power of evolution would be scientific progress. It could give us a good idea about the status of our current understanding of evolution. The fact that we cannot yet do so is a pity, but is not in the slightest degree something to be ashamed of, or something to hide for the general public. That is what Michael Behe should have told the public. Especially, since Behe did not even start to compute the power of the designer. That should be his focus and priority. At least, if he really wants to be an "intelligent design proponent" and have a design theory. Therefore, I did not go into the details of Behe's malaria case. It would distract from my main arguments in this review: the lack of a design theory.
9. DESIGNED BARRIERS TO THE ORIGIN AND EVOLUTION OF LIFE?
In the final chapter Behe argues for fine-tuning for "intelligent life". What does fine-tuning mean exactly? Is fine-tuning different from design? Does fine-tuning mean anything more than the trivial statement that certain properties of matter are necessary for the origin and the existence of life? Could it mean that the fine-tuning is both necessary and sufficient? If fine-tuning is not sufficient, additional designing or intervention must be done? What facts are predicted? Is intelligent life only an euphemism for the human species? Or does fine-tuning also predict apes, dolphins, crows, grey parrots, but nothing more? Then, what have such creatures as bats, whales, and giraffes, which are designed according to Behe, to do with the goal of fine-tuning? Does fine-tuning predict malaria and thousands of organisms that parasitize or prey on humans? How specific is fine-tuning really? Does it predict evolution and Common Descent? Does it predict both Common Descent and the limitations of random evolution? What would falsify Fine-Tuning? If the purpose of fine-tuning is the spontaneous evolution of intelligent life, then the inherent limitations of Darwinian evolution prove the failure of fine-tuning. Also, if the properties of carbon, water, DNA, and the conditions on the early earth count as evidence for fine-tuning for life, then the impossibility of the spontaneous origin of life must count as evidence against fine-tuning. Does it make sense to fine-tune everything in the universe for life on earth, to let species evolve by natural common descent, and implement such severe restrictions on the evolutionary mechanisms that the major architectural features of life - molecular machinery, cells, genetic circuitry - have to be added separately one-by-one by hand at widely different times in a manner that violates the genetic continuity of life? In this way a comfortable and unfalsifiable mixture of fine-tuning and design (intervention!) produces everything you want in every possible way.
10. DNA AND RANDOMNESSFor Behe random mutations can produce only unimportant decorations: "Darwin decorates the spandrels. The cathedral is designed." Let's revisit Behe's fine-tuning table:
Why does Behe classify random mutations in the contingency category and not in the same category as the Laws of nature? The law like behaviour on macroscopic scales arises from combined effects of random microscopic events. For example, Boyle's Law is based on blind purposeless random collisions of gas molecules. Similarly, the fact of random mutation is not an accident! It follows from the biochemical properties of DNA. Behe classifies these as fine-tuned. One of the chemical properties of DNA replication is that it is very reliable, but not error-free. DNA copying errors are essentially of a statistical nature. On the other hand, nonrandom mutation, certainly of the helpful type, is not a known property of DNA. (Why don't we see helpful nonrandom mutation in his ft list?) You cannot place the fundamental properties of DNA and random mutation in separate worlds. Seen from that perspective, there might exist evolutionary limitations, but not necessarily so strong that evolution could not produce the tree of life. Furthermore, when we add genetic continuity inherent in common descent and unbroken natural law to the story, we arrive at the conclusion that there can be no limitations to the evolutionary processes that produced the tree of life. What would be the point of Common Descent from the point of view of the designer? Why design Common Descent anyway? Finally, why the deep rooted worries about randomness? Christian geneticist Francis Collins said it thus:
"Evolution could appear to us to be driven by chance, but from God's perspective the outcome would be entirely specified. Thus God could be completely and intimately involved in the creation of all species, while from our perspective, limited as it is by the tyranny of linear time, this would appear a random and undirected process." (p.205, The Language of God).And Christian biochemist Kenneth Miller (1999) wrote:
"A clever and subtle God could influence events in ways that are profound, but scientifically undetectable to us. Those events could include the appearance of mutations." (p.241, Finding Darwin's God).Christian physicist Arthur Peacocke (2004) wrote:
"To postulate a "special creation" of species or that God injected "life" into the universe or that God somehow directly and personally directs the processes of biological evolution by means other than that inherent in the nature of matter and its "laws" are all errors on Christian premises." (p.63, Evolution. The disguised friend of faith?)Behe's view that the designer acts by manipulating mutations is a theological position. It is a claim about how God would create:
11. 'THE-DESIGNER-WOULDN'T-DO-THAT' ARGUMENT
"Biophysicist Cornelius Hunter argues perceptively that the main supporting pole of the Darwinian tent has always been a theological assertion: 'God wouldn't have done it that way'. Rather than demonstrating that evolution is capable of the wonders they attribute to it, Darwinists rely on a man-made version of God to argue that He never would have made life with the particular suite of features we observe."Biochemist Michael Behe never demonstrated that his designer is capable of the wonders he attributes to him, and his own position is very much a theological position (see Arthur Peacocke quote above). Behe escaped having "a man-made version of God"? My conclusion from the above statement is: if one cannot know what the designer wouldn't do, one cannot know what the designer would do either. God wouldn't have made evolution so powerful that it could produce humans autonomously is the hidden theological assumption in Behe's own thinking. If Behe did follow the logic of his own statement, he should have concluded that no theory about the designer is possible. Furthermore, the lack of an elaborated and coherent design theory in The Edge leaves Behe empty handed.
One good point here is that evolutionary biologists need to demonstrate that evolution is capable of the wonders they attribute to it. That's their job. Behe's perceived limitations of Darwinian evolution are in fact limitations of our knowledge of evolution. From the point of view of the power of the designer, it does not make sense that he could create 3 simultaneous beneficial mutations, and was unable to create 1 or 2 simultaneous mutations. If a designer can create a castle, he must be able to build a house.
12. MALARIA, MORALITY AND EDUCATION
"Malaria was intentionally designed. The molecular machinery with which the parasite invades red blood cells is an exquisitely purposeful arrangement of parts. (...) What sort of designer is that? What sort of "fine-tuning" leads to untold human misery? To countless mothers mourning countless children? Did a hateful, malign being make intelligent life in order to torture it? One who relishes cries of pain? Maybe. Maybe not." (p.237) (21)Personally, I find this the most shocking passage of the entire book. If malaria is intelligently designed, then it is a form of biological warfare or bioterrorism, just as the intelligently designed spread of anthrax spores by mail in 2001 (18). The difference is that malaria killed millions and that the killing continues on a daily basis. Behe follows his own logic to the bitter end (23). From a logical point of view, that is the only positive thing that can be said. However, alarm bells should have been ringing by the result of that logic. What is really bad from a moral point of view, is that first having blessed malaria with a divine origin, subsequently his "Maybe. Maybe not" avoids any answer to his own question "What sort of designer is that?". A question of the highest moral, humanitarian, medical and educational importance. It is not only about malaria. If I understand Behe correctly then 99% of life on earth is designed (Properties of biochemicals such as DNA, Origin of life, Cells, Genetic code, Multiprotein complexes, Molecular machines, Developmental genetic programs, Integrated protein networks are all designed). That includes probably all pathogenic organisms. Who dares to eradicate malaria if it is a divine creation? (15). I am worried about what happens to children when they learn that God intentionally designed malaria. But also what happens to parents already in the habit of opposition to vaccination on the grounds that "man must not, by using vaccines, interfere with God's will"? (10). Will they now object to fighting malaria on the same grounds? Or, following the logic of the Designer to the bitter end, help the malaria mosquito to multiply as much as possible?
Behe says he does not have the answers, except he knows one thing for sure:
"Of the many possible opinions, only one is really indefensible, the one held by Darwin. In a letter to Asa Gray, he wrote: "I cannot persuade myself that a beneficent and omnipotent God would have designedly created the Ichneumonidae with the express intention of their feeding within the living body of caterpillars." (p.238)Here, Behe misinterprets what Darwin wrote in a private letter (this was not in The Origin of Species). Darwin did not write "God does not exist" as everybody can see. Darwin simply said that his observations are not compatible with a beneficent and omnipotent God -the centuries old God of the theologians. Not a God of Darwin's own invention. Darwin simply compared observation and centuries old theological tradition. A question of logic. So Behe's triumphant "Revulsion is not a scientific argument" is irrelevant (12). We "know now" from Behe that Darwin was squeamish (22), (24). I wonder what would happen to children when they do not only learn "Malaria was intentionally designed", but also that they should not be so squeamish about it as Darwin and that it is not yet known whether the malaria-God is malicious or good-natured (20).
Another question is the compatibility of the malaria-God with the goals of the Intelligent Design movement:
* "To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural, and political legacies"Does that mean that "malaria was created by Darwinian evolution" must be replaced by "malaria was created by God"? I suggest that this destructive insight must not "permeate religious, cultural, moral and political life" before a satisfactory answer has been given to the problem of natural evil. Even Cornelius Hunter who wrote a book specifically addressing the question evolution and the problem of evil did not even try to begin to answer the question.
And what about the basis of morality? (13). Is morality not based on "an emotional feeling of the way things ought to be"? (7). Darwin's empathy, condescendingly described by Behe as squeamishness, is indeed not a basis for science, but it is generally recognized as the biological basis of morality ('do no harm'). This is especially destructive for Behe's morality, because Behe just destroyed the religious foundation for morality (14). Why waste time and energy to prove a link between Darwin and Hitler (Richard Weikart), when the designer-god is killing millions of innocent people every year? I myself don't understand what drives people to religion. However, if religion is about comfort and consolation, then I am seriously and honestly bewildered, baffled, and perplexed that a human mind can find consolation in the sort of designer Michael Behe just created. A designer who excels in creating "ultrasophisticated molecular machinery", but who doesn't care about human well-being. I would be scared to death by such a designer.
13. CONCLUSIONSIt is possible that some readers will find new facts or insights in The Edge of Evolution. It depends on the reader. However, let this not distract us from the fact that the book does not deliver a theory of design, but instead discusses the limits of evolution. That is remarkable for someone who calls himself a proponent of intelligent design. Yet, design dominates Behe's thinking, but it easily escapes our notice that a crucial logical step is without justification. Behe has given no reason for the main claim of his book that the other side of the edge of evolution is the domain of design. Indeed, why would a designer act according to design principles determined completely by our 21st century knowledge of the world? On an even deeper level it is unclear why a god would create anything at all. One reason for the absence of a design theory is that one cannot know what a designer would do or would not do, effectively closing of any knowledge about the designers goals and methods. How can one search for proofs under such conditions? The lack of positive knowledge of design and designer forces Behe to focus exclusively on the limits of Darwinian evolution. Another reason is that you can't construct a theory on broken natural laws. That Behe still managed to write an ID-book must be explained by the fact that he most certainly has a theological theory - in his head. Driven by theological notions, but prevented by a self-imposed restriction to talk about it, Behe persistently searches for proofs of God in nature at all costs. The final result is a clumsy, inefficient DNA-manipulator who needs billions of years to create a human being and is a bioterrorist who excels in making human life as miserable as possible. There could be no greater incompatibility between claims that 99% of life was designed and common descent. Common Descent is based on genetic continuity in the history of life on earth and ultimately based on unbroken natural law. Design, as Behe describes it, is based on the discontinuity of the tree of life (broken natural law). Therefore, design and common descent are incompatible. It is either design or common descent. It is logically impossible to hold both.
Other reviews of The Edge of Evolution
my review of Behe's
'Darwin's Black Box':
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|Copyright ©G. Korthof 2007||First published: 22 Jul 2007||Updated: 18 Aug 2007 F.R./Notes: 18 Jul 2013|