Re: Behe Review (yet another)

Stephen E. Jones (
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 06:24:59 +0800


On Mon, 11 Oct 1999 09:40:47 -0600, Terry M. Gray wrote:

TG>David's suggestions are very much in line with my comments in my original
>review of Behe from 1994.

It is interesting that Terry uses the words "review of Behe from 1994". This
gives the impression that this is a review of Mike Behe's *book* "Darwin's
Black Box", when it is in fact only an abstract of a *debate* that Terry had
with Mike Behe in 1994, one or two years *before* DBB. See below.

TG>Indeed I am a "theistic evolutionist" who sees
>"the necessity for emphasising self-organisation and emergent phenomenon in
>order to realise God's design conceptualisation". While this puts me
>outside the neo-Darwinian camp, technically speaking, modern Darwinism has
>welcomed this school (except for a few hard-nose guys like Richard Dawkins
>(but he is softening up a bit, it appears)

I would appreciate Terry substantiating his claim that "Richard Dawkins softening up a bit..." to "self-organisation...". I saw Dawkins on TV
in 1996 debating Paul Davies who said:

"PD...Now when it comes to standard neo-Darwinian theory of evolution
that chance part is the random variations and mutations, and the law part is
the natural selection, but to a physicist natural selection looks like a very
impoverished and parochial form of law. We like to think in terms of grand
principles and so it's very appealing to hear somebody like Stuart
Kauffmann talking about universal principles that link the living and the

and Dawkins answered that while "self-organisation...was important...natural the only known explanation for adaptive improvement":

"RD Yes. Nobody could possibly say that natural selection is an
impoverished explanatory principle. Natural selection is the principle which
is responsible for the adaptive nature of life and that's no mean thing. The
fact that whales swim so well, birds fly so well, humans think so well,
cheetahs run so well, the quality of living adaptation can only be explained
by natural selection. Now, self-organisation, of course that's important. Of
course, it was important before life came into existence and of course it
goes on being important now. What happened 3000 or 3500 or even 4000
million years ago was a new kind of self-organisation which was brought
about by natural selection since natural selection started with the first
selfreplicating molecule, the first gene if you like. From then on, a new kind
of ordering process has come into existence which is natural selection, and
this has had the unique property of putting together mechanisms that are
good at something, mechanisms that are good at surviving, good at
reproducing, good at flying, good at swimming, good at digging. That you
cannot get by self-organisation. By self-organisation you can get the origin
of the first replicating molecule as Stuart Kauffmann was saying. Of course
it had to be a self-organising process that gave rise to the original
selfreplicating molecule. There was nothing else around, so it's got to be
physics that did that because biology, as I said, hadn't started. Once biology
started, no doubt the same kinds of self-organisation processes went on
and still go on but natural selection was there to introduce adaptation. Now
I want to clarify this thing about mutation being random. When we say
mutation is random all that means is that it is not directed towards adaptive
improvement. It can still be very complicated, it can still be in many senses
self-organising, self-assembling. The mutation that is offered up for natural
selection is random only in the sense that it is not driven, it is not directed
towards getting better at anything, but it may very well be driven in some
other sense towards symmetry or some other principle that might be
analogous to the principles by which, say, the larger atoms were built up in
stars. There was no natural selection in that. That's some kind of
selforganising process and the same sort of self-organising might well be a
feature of the generation of the variation that natural selection works upon.
That's perfectly likely to be true. But natural selection itself is the only
known explanation for adaptive improvement and anybody who looks at
the natural world, not least in Australia, will be immensely impressed with
adaptive improvement and will not put it down to any impoverished

(McKew M., "The Origin of the Universe", Interview with Richard Dawkins
& Paul Davies, "Lateline", 19 June 1996, in Australian Rationalist, No. 41,
Spring 1996, p72).

If Terry has something more recent from Dawkins where he now admits that
self-organisation (as well natural selection) are now both "known explanations
for adaptive improvement", then I would like to see it.

TG>In the same way, technically,
>S.J. Gould and Stuart Kaufman are outside the neo-Darwinian camp. We
>Christians are arguing straw-men when we use such strict definition of
>Darwinism that fails to allow for these kinds of mechanisms to work hand in
>hand with traiditonal mutation/selection.

Personally I regard this is just hand-waving. Neo-Darwinism is the theory
of evolution that is still taught in school textbooks. Even Gould admits that
at the end of all the hype he knows of no scientific mechanism other than
natural selection to build design":

"...may I state for the record that I (along with all other Darwinian
pluralists) do not deny either the existence and central importance of
adaptation, or the production of adaptation by natural selection. Yes, eyes
are for seeing and feet are for moving. And, yes again, I know of no
scientific mechanism other than natural selection with the proven power to
build structures of such eminently workable design." (Gould S.J.,
"Darwinian Fundamentalism", New York Review of Books, June 12, 1997.

Therefore "Christians are arguing" against the still orthodox reigning
theory of evolution. The fact that it is failing does not mean that any of
these other mechanisms can take its place. Kauffman has been around for a
long time and nothing substantial has come from him or his school. Indeed
my impression is that he has passed his prime and is on the way out. John
Horgan writes:

"For the most part, Kauffman has had little success at winning a following
for his ideas. Perhaps the major problem is that his theories are statistical in
nature, as he himself admits. But one cannot confirm a statistical prediction
about the probability of life's origin and its subsequent evolution when one
only has one data point-terrestrial life-to consider. One of the harshest
assessments of Kauffman's work comes from John Maynard Smith, a
British evolutionary biologist who, like Dawkins, is renowned for his sharp
tongue and who pioneered the use of mathematics in evolutionary biology.
Kauffman once studied under Maynard Smith, and he has spent countless
hours trying to convince his former mentor of the importance of his work-
apparently in vain. In a public debate in 1995, Maynard Smith said of self-
organized criticality, the sandpile model advanced by Per Bak and
embraced by Kauffman, "I just find the whole enterprise contemptible."
Maynard Smith told Kauffman later, over beers, that he did not find
Kauffman's approach to biology interesting....Kauffman is at his most
eloquent and persuasive when he is in his critical mode. He has implied that
the evolutionary theory promulgated by biologists such as Dawkins is cold
and mechanical; it does not do justice to the majesty and mystery of life.
Kauffman is right; there is something unsatisfying, tautological, about
Darwinian theory, even when it is explicated by a rhetorician as skilled as
Dawkins. But Dawkins, at least, distinguishes between living and nonliving
things. Kauffman seems to see all phenomena, from bacteria to galaxies, as
manifestations of abstract mathematics forms that undergo endless
permutations. He is a mathematical aesthete. His vision is similar to that of
the particle physicists who call God a geometer. Kauffman has suggested
that his vision of life is more meaningful and comforting than that of
Dawkins. But most of us, I suspect, can identify more with Dawkins's
pushy little replicators than we can with Kauffman's Boolean functions in
N-space. Where is the meaning and comfort in these abstractions?"
(Horgan J., "The End of Science: Facing the Limits of Knowledge in the
Twilight of the Scientific Age", 1997, pp136-137).

If and when Neo-Darwinism is officially downgraded and self-organisation
officially takes or shares its place, then, and only then, can Terry claim that
"Christians are arguing straw-men when we use such strict definition of

TG>See if you haven't read it
>yet. Since Weber picks up many of the themes that I originally pointed out
>(he even refers to it once), I am very pleased with his review and believe
>that Christians who sympathize with Behe should read it very carefully.

On his Home Page at
Terry has this document titled "Book Review of Michael Behe's Darwin's
Black Box".

Yet I have on my hard disk a post from Terry to the Calvin Reflector dated
25 July 1996 where he stated that this critique of Mike's IC thesis was
not a review of DBB (because he had only just bought the book) but was
an abstract of a debate Terry had with Behe in 1994:

On Thu, 25 Jul 1996 21:42:49 -0400, Terry M. Gray wrote:

>Thanks Jim for notice of Mike's book. I ran out to my local Barnes and
>Noble Booksellers here in Grand Rapids and there were five copies on
>the shelf. And, yes, I did contribute to Mike's royalties.
>Congratulations to Mike for his book and for the forceful statement of
>his argument, well summarized by Jim's glowing blurb!
>I have my own take on Mike's thesis and hope to do a formal review of
>the book at some point. Mike and I "debated" his point at the ASA
>meeting at Bethel College in 1994. Here is the abstract of my
>contribution. The full talk is now on the web at
>Complexity--Yes! Irreducible--Maybe! Unexplainable--No!
>A Creationist Critique of the Irreducible Complexity Argument for
>Intelligent Design


The above email can still be found on the Calvin Reflector archives at In another
email from Terry dated 23 Nov 1996 he wrote: "My own initial ideas have
been expressed at my debate with Mike at the ASA meeting in 1994 (see
the manuscript from the debate at".

Why is Terry claiming this is a "Book Review of Michael Behe's Darwin's
Black Box" when:

1. the article at is the same
as the one at, which
Terry says above was an abstract of a debate with Mike Behe in 1994 (1-2 years
*before DBB)?

2. the article itself which is undated does not even mention "Darwin's Black
Box", nor that it is a review, and is seems to be not a book review but a


3. the article implies that hemoglobin is irreducibly complex when DBB
expressly says that hemoglobin is *not* irreducibly complex?

"There is also another protein, called myoglobin, that is very similar to
hemoglobin except that it has only one protein chain, not four, and
therefore binds only one oxygen. The binding of oxygen to myoglobin is
not cooperative. The question is, if we assume that we already have an
oxygen-binding protein like myoglobin, can we infer intelligent design from
the function of hemoglobin? The case for design is weak. The starting
point, myoglobin, already can bind oxygen. The behavior of hemoglobin
can be achieved by a rather simple modification of the behavior of
myoglobin, and the individual proteins of hemoglobin strongly resemble
myoglobin. So although hemoglobin can be thought of as a system with
interacting parts, the interaction does nothing much that is clearly beyond
the individual components of the system. Given the starting point of
myoglobin, I would say that hemoglobin shows the same evidence for
design as does the man in the moon: intriguing, but far from convincing."
(Behe M.J., "Darwin's Black Box", 1996, p207).

IMHO this is a serious matter because it gives the impression that Terry
has reviewed DBB and found it wanting, when in fact it is not a review of
DBB at all, but an abstract of a debate Terry had with Mike Behe 1-2 years
*before* DBB. There might be atheists who feel safe in their atheism
because the believe that Terry, a fellow Christian biochemist with Behe,
has refuted DBB.

Personally I believe the right thing for Terry to do is to withdraw his
abstract because it is so misleading, and contact all the sites which feature
it as a refutation of DBB and ask them to withdraw it also. Failing that, the
very least he should do is make it clear on his own web page that the article
is *not* a review of DBB.

That Terry has not done this to date, but in fact has actually claimed on his
web page that this is a "Book Review of Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box",
when it is not, is to my mind inexplicable and disturbing.

If Terry thinks he has the answers to DBB, then he should review DBB
*properly* and post that review on his web site.


Stephen E. (Steve) Jones ,--_|\ Email:
3 Hawker Avenue / Oz \ Web:
Warwick 6024 -> *_,--\_/ Phone: +61 8 9448 7439
Perth, Western Australia v "Test everything." (1 Thess. 5:21)