Re: [asa] Behe's bad math

From: David Buller <>
Date: Sat Jun 02 2007 - 15:30:31 EDT

I've looked into the claims and reviews of Behe's book so far, and these
seem to be the main problems with one of his main claims, that species can
get "stuck" on the peaks of the adaptive landscape:

1. Behe does not recognize that the peaks of an adaptive landscape are only
peaks when viewed from a limited number of dimensions. In other words,
start looking at all the dimensions, and the species is no longer stuck.
There isn't merely one variable in a particular biological structure. For
example, a finch beak can get longer or shorter, but there are many more
variables, giving you a much more complex many-dimensional adaptive

2. Behe assumes that that the adaptive landscape is static. In other
words, if you're surrounded by valleys, you always will be.

3. Behe assumes that only small changes can be made by evolution; does he
mention hybridization, symbiosis, gene duplication, and certain mutations
that can cause a large shift in just a few (or one) step(s), in essense
"jumping" across the adaptive landscape?

4. Behe assumes that a species will never take a small excursion down an
adaptive peak, eventually starting up another.

In addition, I'll be interested to see if Behe ever addresses complexity
theory and other non-Darwinian forms of evolution. Self-organizational
theories would throw a monkey wrench in his arguments. If we didn't know
what causes a vortex in a sink, for example, and we had never observed one
directly, we might have someone like Behe telling us that the probability of
all those water molecules perfectly arranging themselves in such an
organized (Dembski would call it "specified complexity") pattern on their
own and by stictly natural processes is one in trillions of trillions. I
think the argument over abiogenesis is quite similar; once the exact
processes are understood (if they ever are), the probability arguments of
Behe et. al. will sould pretty ridiculous.

Unfortunately, much of the book seems to be based upon an elementary
understanding of evolution, statistics, and specifically the adaptive
landscape. How much of this faulty reasoning will be eaten up by Christians
trying to defend God from evolution? One interesting point to note is (from
what I hear) the book seems to contain even less novelty than Darwin's
Black Box. Irreducible complexity was a new term in '96, but are Behe's
misconceptions about the adaptive landscape anything new? I don't think
so! Anyway, I look forward to reading more about the book once it comes

-David Buller

On 6/1/07, PvM <> wrote:
> Behe's new book is out and the reviews are not favorable so far
> <quote>Review copies of Michael Behe's new book The Edge of Evolution
> are now out the book is officially coming out on June 5 and now
> the reviews are starting. Mark C. Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math,
> has beat us all to the punch. I perceived many of these problems while
> giving The Edge of Evolution my own read-through, but it takes a
> mathematician to comment on Behe's abuse of fitness landscapes and
> probability arguments with the appropriate sense of outrage.
> I am sure we will have much more on Behe's latest starting in June. My
> first take is that The Edge of Evolution is basically an incompetent
> attempt to provide a biological foundation for the silly assumptions
> that were made in Behe and Snoke's (2004) mathematical modeling paper
> in Protein Science. (You will recall that it received its most
> thorough critique here at PT and also in a rebuttal written in Protein
> Science by Michael Lynch; and a biological rebuttal in this 2006 paper
> in Science see also summary by Adami.)</quote>
> At "Good Math Bad Math" Mark C. Chu-Carroll minces no words
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Received on Sat Jun 2 15:30:54 2007

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