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Intelligent designoids are unsure about me

Normally I wouldn’t link to these guys, but I’m having a kind of odd week with the ID crowd. On the one hand the ever reliable Casey Luskin has declared I am condescending for suggesting we teach science free of religious overtones to young children (but Kelly Smith is more condescending). And on the other, Michael Behe says my species book is great! I’m so conflicted.

I suspect Behe thinks that because I am critical of the standard or received essentialist story I am undercutting evolutionary thinking. I am not, of course, but maybe he just thinks it’s a damned good read.


  1. John Farrell John Farrell

    Yes. Luskin writes whatever the DI execs appoint him to write on any given week (can you imagine the weekly status meetings??). Behe at least was probably grateful to read a book that he felt didn’t require him having to spout the party line.

    The book I want to read by him is the one he pens when he decides his time spent with the Abrahamson think-tank hasn’t been worth the cost to his career….

  2. Mike Haubrich Mike Haubrich

    I admit that I was confused about Behe’s comment about whether or not a horse that died about a thousand years ago should be considered within the sames species as a modern horse, since dead horses can’t breed nor tell tales.

    Is that a philosophical concern against the biological species concept? Seriously? Is Behe applying that when a biological entity dies then it is no longer describable as a member of its heretofore assigned species? Not that it would care, of course. But did he make this up, or is this something that you touch on in your book regarding the classification of fossils.

    I understand that the classification of say, dogs as Canis lupis (familiaris,) would be difficult from fossils alone, considering that they have morphological differences that make skeletal features look un-wolfy, but is this a valid logical extension of the biological species concept?

    • John Harshman John Harshman

      You will have to explain to me how Behe’s statement results from such a confusion. I don’t get it.

      • John Harshman John Harshman

        Well, that didn’t work. It was supposed to be directed at Mitchell Coffey.

        What I meant to say here is that the biological species concept gets into trouble if we try to extend it very far in time, for the reasons Behe (perhaps facetiously) says: we really can’t tell whether a past population would be reproductively compatible with a present one. We can tell if they looked alike, but there are plenty of extant sibling species that are hard to tell apart. The less of the morphology that’s preserved in fossils, the worse it gets. I’m willing to suppose that the horses of a thousand years ago are the same species as those today. Horses have long generations, and it would take a long time for any changes enough to result in reproductive barriers to propagate through the world’s horse population, which we observe today to be mutually compatible. But horses of a hundred thousand years ago? Who can tell? Nor, on the other hand, do fairly major differences in morphology always result in incompatibility. Paleontologists use a morphological species concept, which is fine until they (or others) conflate the two sorts of species. Then you get punctuated equilibria.

  3. Jim Thomerson Jim Thomerson

    Interesting, considering that most new species descriptions are based on dead animals on a museum shelf, or dead plants on a herbarium sheet.

  4. Mitchell Coffey Mitchell Coffey

    Behe is not the only smart guy every to be confused about the difference between things, with their concrete properties, and words used to describe things.

  5. So you finally found that you can agree with Behe about something.:)

  6. Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

    I suspect Behe likes your book because you establish that the history of the species concept is irreducibly complex

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