Another morning, another creationist whine out of the blue. Here’s another letter, and as usual with these well-thought out rants, I’m an afterthought—it’s addressed to Ken Miller, but then the guy figures he might as well clog a few more mailboxes while he’s sending it out.
As is traditional, the formatting is exactly as I received it. What is it with kooks and Comic Sans, anyway? And could they possibly trade in a few bold/italic font changes for an occasional paragraph break?
Dear Professor Myers: I’d dearly love to have someone show me where I am wrong in my analysis here.
Dear Professor Ken Miller,
the doubts I have about darwin–and why–but from a non-scientific point of view
Can you explain one thing to me? How can the evolutionist trust in the empirical veracity of his theory if, when Michael Behe’s new book comes out (The Edge of Evolution), all that he is determined to do is to refute it? I am willing to bet that no evolutionist (that is, an evolutionist fiercely opposed to the Theory of Intelligent Design) will approach Michael Behe’s book with the natural curiosity and fair-mindedness which seeks to find out: Now what has Michael Behe done here to try to provide evidence for the idea of design and intelligence? No, the strong evolutionist is, at the outset, closed-off to any other possibility than that the theory of evolution must explain everything that Michael Behe wants intelligent design to explain. And this means, Professor Miller, that the evolutionist is no longer engaged in an objective or open-minded relationship to nature; but more than this: it means that he does not trust that nature might not just throw up something which poses a challenge to his theory. And this strongly suggests, it is not that the evolutionist so much trusts in his theory to represent the way the natural world came about, and presently exists, but rather that the theory itself, just per se, must provide the explanatory sufficiency for anything and everything that occurs in the natural world. Therefore, Professor Miller, the evolutionist is no longer objectively and disinterestedly seeing the relationship of this theory to nature; his only concern is to uphold and defend the theory of evolution no matter what. This is like someone who knows the theory of gravity is true, but in the face of an alternative theory decides: No, I am no longer going to test out the theory of gravity by conducting my own experiments; I am only going to demolish this opposing theory out of my reverence for the validity of the theory of evolution independent of its relationship to the physical world. If the theory of evolution is true, why not assess the evidence for the theory of Intelligent Design as if one were going to make a fresh determination of this question, based on the evidence presented? To me, this unwillingness of the evolutionist to subject the theory of evolution once again to the test (by suspending judgment, just for a a prescribed period of time—;the time, say, to read Behe’s book), is evidence that, at least unconsciously, the evolutionist not just doubts the final scientific truth of his theory, but even begins to suspect (again unconsciously) that the theory of Intelligent Design just might be right! I can’t see any other interpretation for the behaviour of the hard-core evolutionists. As I say, what is the mind-set of the strong evolutionists in knowing that Behe’s book is coming out? Is it: Let’s see what Behe has to say on behalf of this competing theory? No, it is: Let us destroy the credibility of this thesis as soon and as lethally as we can. We must put our brains to this task and this task only: how can we disprove the validity of Michael Behe’s book? And in doing so, none of us must ever allow ourselves to be open to what would be the spontaneous and undefensive understanding and experience we might receive from just reading this book without bias or pre-determined judgment? This will not happen, Professor Miller. And this, for me, is the most powerful indictment of the theory of evolution. It does not provide, in its defense of itself, the convincing and persuasive feeling that would innocently refute any opposing theory, and therefore, what the theory won’t do—;metaphysically to conquer opposition to itself—;we will have to do with our own subjective passion.
I can’t speak for Professor Miller, but I can address this as someone who has responded to Behe’s book.
I have read the book, carefully and thoroughly. I did not go into it with particular specific expectations, other than that I have a low opinion of Darwin’s Black Box and so my expectations were low. In fact, Behe surprised me completely on several points—not good surprises—so it’s a bit unfair to complain that we had our minds made up and that we wouldn’t even read his book. I haven’t seen any reviews yet that are by people who haven’t read the book at all; if you want to find examples of that, you’ll have to look for for reviews of Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
What Mr Creationist here is asking isn’t that we keep an open mind, but that we suspend critical thinking for Behe’s book. That’s not scientific, and it’s not going to happen: years of grad school journal clubs have trained us to examine every paper and book with great suspicion, and works by eminent authorities, even those on the side of evolution, are especially fun to eviscerate. We treated Behe’s book exactly as we would a book by James Valentine or Mary Jane West-Eberhard or Eric Davidson or Rudy Raff or Elisabeth Lloyd or Ed Wilson, for instance, smart people all who are on our side: we look for holes, and we poke them.
The difference between Behe and those other guys is that the other guys build a solid argument based on evidence, and we have to look awfully hard for the weaknesses; Behe has erected a fantasy with wisps of smoke as his construction materials. Not only can we find holes big enough to punch our fists through, but as we move our hands around the whole thing wafts away.
The bottom line is that Mr Creationist wishes Michael Behe had written a book that would blow us critics away with the force of his evidence and the robustness of his reason. Behe did not do that. Behe has written a very poor book that provides no mechanism and no evidence for Intelligent Design—the little rant above is a prime example of projection, since all The Edge of Evolution is is a close-minded rejection of all of evolutionary biology. He even specifically goes out of his way to to dismiss my favorite field, evo-devo, with a collection of complaints that reveal he doesn’t understand the subject.
The most amusing part of the letter is that it implies at the beginning that the writer doesn’t know when the book is coming out, and if you’ll notice, no where does he mention one single detail from the book. I suspect he hasn’t read it himself, but he wants us to give it a positive review!