One of Michael Behe‘s main assertions in his new book Edge of Evolution is that while natural selection can find optima in a fitness landscape, it can only find local optima – according to Behe, once you have found a local optimum, you are stuck. Natural selection can never take you back down the hill, and mutations that allow you to jump to the next peak are too unlikely to happen. Obviously this is nonsense, as has been explained by Mark Chu-Carroll.
But Behe’s book wasn’t written to address his scientific critics – it was written to confuse. Dress it up in the garb of science to confuse people and provide “proof” for people in search of proof. Looking at some of the responses, it seems like book had about 330 pages too many…6 would have done just fine. Over at William Dembski‘s blog, Uncommon Descent, Gil Dodgen has written a post based on his reading of the book. It starts a little bit inauspiciously:
I’ve read Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution. Michael offers hard evidence for what most people recognize.
Evidence for what most people realize. Confirmation bias, anyone? In other words, he says what the blogger expects. And what does has he learned from reading Behe’s book?
Mutations break things….But broken things represent a downhill process, informationally, and cannot account for an uphill, information-creating process, not to mention the machinery required to process that information.
Michael, I’m sorry to say that you have failed to reach your target audience. Based on Dodgen’s blog post, he understood exactly the opposite of what the book said. Behe says that evolution lacks a mechanism to get species down from the “hills” they have climbed via natural selection. The reader concludes exactly the opposite – that species are prone to go downhill.
It makes you wonder whether anyone is really going to read Edge of Evolution except for the reviewers who are going to pan it. Unlike Darwin’s Black Box, the book isn’t terribly readable. It’s also much harder to follow than was DBB. This is a win-win situation for him, of course – the faithful are going to read a few page, look at a few more, and conclude that it “offers hard evidence for what most people recognize“. At the same time, the more opaque Behe is, the harder it is for his critics to destroy his arguments. Win-win.