David Klinghoffer thinks Science had to gang up on Behe

For even more fun, David Klinghoffer has written his own criticism of the Science review. His take is even more petty and ridiculous: he thinks science is having a panic attack over the book, because they got three scientists to write the review.

So here we have Science, the most prestigious technical science journal published in the United States, getting out ahead of the release of Darwin Devolves, recruiting a National Academy of Sciences member and two lesser scientists, the latter known primarily for their critiques of intelligent design (Swamidass) or complaints about the “poor design” of the human body (Lents).

Lesser scientists? What does that make Behe?

I guarantee you that Lenski does not think of his colleagues as lesser, and that the Science editors did not recruit a group to triple-team Behe because he’s so darned scary and tough. It’s much more likely that a trio of colleagues were discussing the book, and each contributed cogent criticisms, so they got equal billing in the write-up. That’s how real science works, when it works well — collaborative groups contributing to the work.

Behe might not be aware of this because he’s been ostracized by real scientists, and he only bounces ideas off fellow ideologues at the Discovery Institute, who tend to get horny over anything critical of evolution, no matter how ridiculous. The collaborative nature of science might be difficult for the DI pundits to comprehend.

Oh, and even us lesser scientists are quite capable of seeing how bad Behe’s arguments have always been.


  1. says

    I take it that the pile of monkeys represents the DI?
    If so, I would like to remonstrate with the cartoonist on behalf of monkeys everywhere for this gross insult.

  2. says

    Creationists don’t seem to understand complexity. Surprise, I know. It’s as if you can’t make soup with a blender – no matter how long you leave tomatoes, basil, and cream in a blender, they can be separated later because they are not more complex. Or, given a residential wiring and plumbing code, the wire-plan of New York City is not any more complex than just my house. Or something. I try to think but nothing happens. Is the wire-plan of New York City the same “information” as the residential wiring code? No, it is not, but it depends predictably upon it.

  3. says

    Ooooh, another version of “Heads I Win, Tail You Loose”. If we ignore this shait, we’re obviously afraid of debating the issue. If we give a competent rebuttal (also known as a smack down) then it’s overkill, so we must be afraid.

  4. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Those monkeys… are they… I mean… they look dead. :-(

    Almost as dead as Intelligent Design! Hah!

  5. Andrew Dalke says

    While for me, Swamidass was the only one I had heard of. Swamidass and Baldi developed the BitBound limits for chemical fingerprint searches, which is a core part of most high-performance chemical search systems. DOI: 10.1021/ci600358f . I use it in my own software.

  6. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Erlend Meyer: “If we ignore this shait, we’re obviously afraid of debating the issue. If we give a competent rebuttal (also known as a smack down) then it’s overkill, so we must be afraid.”

    I’m thinking Max Reger’s response to a critic might be apt: “I am in the smallest room of the house. I have your review in front of me. Soon it will be behind me.”

  7. says

    “Lesser” scientists? What does that make Behe?

    Some kind of transitional form maybe? 😉

    Marcus Ranum @ 2:

    Creationists don’t seem to understand complexity.

    Creationists don’t seem to understand much of anything. But when, to paraphrase Sinclair Lewis, one’s paycheck depends on one’s continued lack of understanding, it’s amazing how ignorant one can remain in the face of overwhelming evidence.

  8. whheydt says

    Re: a_ray_in_dilbert_space @ #6…
    I have heard that attributed to Voltaire and the subject being a letter.

  9. says

    To be (extremely) generous, Klinghoffer sorta has a weak point. In 1931 the book “A Hundred Authors Against Einstein” was published. Einsteins retort was simple: “Why a hundred? If I’m wrong one would suffice”.

    I don’t really agree with him, but I also see how easy it is to play a victim when faced with overwhelming opposition.

  10. Rob Grigjanis says

    Erlend Meyer @10: I’d never heard of that book. Apparently there was only one physicist among the hundred, Karl Strehl. When I googled him, I came across A Critical Look at the Theory of Relativity (PDF), by one F.K. Preikschat (1976), which references Strehl.

    At first I found it rather funny that FKP’s utter ignorance of SR was clear after the first few sentences. But funny turned to sad and rather depressing on realizing that the poor fool spent so much time writing this tripe. And there are a lot of FKPs out there, for every field of study :-(

  11. chrislawson says

    Erlend Meyer–

    I have no generosity to give Klinghoffer here. It’s true that successful theories have often faced serious and sometimes grotesquely unreasonable criticism — but Klinghoffer is using the fact that there is criticism as an argument that Behe’s theory is sound, which is very obviously a stupid, stupid line of reasoning, especially as it’s used here to support a serial deceiver and to marginalise the arguments of people who actually know evolutionary theory (as opposed to Behe who quite clearly refuses to read undergraduate-level or even pop-sci books on the subject). Not one jot of sympathy is deserved.

    It’s just a pathetic “they laughed at Galileo” gambit…and I hope we all know Carl Sagan’s famous response to that.

  12. says

    To be fair the two main arguments this time seems to be (1) that they’re reviewing the book before it’s published and (2) that they were sending “a 3 man hit-squad”. I know, they will always ignore valid criticism and find a way to paint themselves as victims, but let’s not make it easier for them than we need to.

    I’m not saying we’re doing anything wrong, I’m just asking if we can do things even better. I don’t know if it’s common to review books before they are published or not, if it’s not then perhaps we should refrain from doing so.
    And while I see nothing wrong with a 3 man review it can at lest be misrepresented as an argument from authority. But then again, would 3 separate reviews be any better?

  13. Nathan Lents says

    Thanks for this. Just to add context for any that are curious, the “team” formed organically. I was planning to review the book for some outlets that I frequently write for and I was talking about the book with Josh and Richard and we just decided to do one together. We were not commissioned by Science to write the review. (In fact, we were actually thinking about the WSJ first.) We pitched the idea to Science and they invited us to submit something. In combining our separate notes, we had a huge list of issues to address, so we picked a few areas of overlap that we could squeeze into the 750 word limit. The rest of our issues will end up in other reviews that we’re all writing separately. There is lots more to say about this book. He makes pretty serious errors in almost every example he discusses. Tomorrow, Darwin Day, I’m dropping a piece on my blog (The Human Evolution Blog) that shows how the opening example of the book, the evolution of polar bears, is way off base. Later in the month, I have essays coming out that discusses other examples. Stay tuned!

  14. anchor says

    “I don’t really agree with him, but I also see how easy it is to play a victim when faced with overwhelming opposition.”

    Its more like they function under the influence of a well-cultivated persecution complex.

  15. says

    @anchor: Quite so. The persecution complex is deeply ingrained in christianity, to the point that they can be the majority and still whine about it every time they don’t get their will.

  16. Jazzlet says

    Erlend Meyer @#14
    It is extremely common to be sent a review copy – often not quite the finished article, say without the final cover – so that a review can be written in time for it to be published around the time of the book publication, in fact I would say that is normal practise.

  17. says

    @Jazzlet #19: I suspected as much, but I’ve never paid attention to such details so I wasn’t sure. So it’s another “win” for the believers who take everything they’re told from their own as gospel.

  18. chrislawson says

    There’s nothing wrong with reviewing things before they’re published — how do you think the reviewers got a hold of it if not for the publishers sending out advance copies? Mostly publishers want reviews to come out just before publication to build publicity. And if for some reason the publishers don’t want reviews released early, they can always add an embargo until a date of their choosing.

    As for the three-reviewer “gang-up”, that’s just manufactured outrage. It only counts as a fallacy from authority if the content of the review states that Behe is wrong because the three people who say so are experts. It only counts as a fallacy ad populum if they argue that Behe is wrong because there are three of them compared to his unity. In actual fact, Klinghoffer is one committing the fallacy here — the so-called fallacy fallacy, with the added bonus that the original fallacies Klinghoffer tries to impute don’t even exist in the text he is criticising. That is, it is not just an erroneous but a false-accusation fallacy fallacy. A rare rhetorical triple pike.

    If you can figure out a better way of dealing with the ID dishonesty, I’d be glad to see it. But giving generous interpretations to the words of serial deceivers is not IMO the way to improve science communication. And neither is going along with their manufactured standards. Would it have made any difference if fewer authors had contributed to the review? Would it have made any difference if Science had delayed publication for another week or two? Of course not. No matter what Science had done, Klinghoffer would spin it for ID.

    Besides, there’s not much point trying to match creationists’ demands for fair treatment when they construct ridiculous definitions of what is fair, and only want those restrictions applied to their opponents anyway. Remember that the DI routinely publishes books with multiple authors. So it is the height of hypocrisy for Klinghoffer, who is a “Senior Fellow” at the DI, to complain about the unfairness of a multi-author review.

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