Gross drubs Behe in The New Criterion


Reviewing Michael Behe's latest book, The Edge of Evolution (Free Press, 2007), in the October 2007 issue of The New Criterion, the biologist Paul R. Gross is anything but impressed. After observing that Behe's argument from irreducible complexity in Darwin's Black Box (Free Press, 1996) was quickly recognized to fail, he comments (PDF), "In response, Behe and the ["intelligent design"] movement shifted ground, first redefining I.C. in an effort to meet the flood of negation, finally (in effect) by scanting it in favor of more general claims. The Edge of Evolution is Behe's heroic effort to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat." Gross adds, "The clear goal is to justify his original claim that the purposeful complexity of life cannot be a product of 'random mutation,' that there must be intelligent design, and (en passant) that I.D. is the great scientific discovery of our age."

Noting that Behe's arguments have already taken a pounding (in review after review after review), Gross identifies two kinds of scientific flaws: "errors of the model itself and in the associated calculations, and ... ignoring important conflicting material in the primary literature." He gives three examples: Behe's misunderstanding of a report on the frequency of spontaneous resistence to a drug in the malaria parasite; his unwarranted assumption that mutations in the relevant gene would have to be simultaneous; and his neglect of the experimental and theoretical literature on protein evolution -- "the book's grand argument ignores the known, frequent appearance, by Darwinian pathways, of protein-protein interactions in small populations. There is a vast experimental and theoretical literature on protein evolution."

Paul R. Gross is University Professor of Life Sciences, emeritus, at the University of Virginia, and holds honorary degrees from the Medical College of Ohio and Brown University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. With Norman Levitt, he authored Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1994); with Nick Matzke, he wrote "Analyzing Critical Analysis: The Fallback Antievolutionist Strategy" for Not in Our Classrooms: Why Intelligent Design is Wrong for Our Schools; and with Barbara Forrest, he authored Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design (Oxford University Press, 2004; reissued in paperback with a new chapter on Kitzmiller v. Dover, 2007).