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Rebuttal to Paul Gross’ Review of The Edge of Evolution – Error #4: Misrepresenting the State of Thinking in Cosmology

[This four part series responding to Paul Gross can be seen in: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.]

In his review of Michael Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution, Paul Gross wrongly claims that cosmic fine-tuning is rejected by mainstream physicists. Gross writes that “as proof of intelligent design [Behe] now hitches it to the strong anthropic principle: a universe fine-tuned for human life, and not by accident. … mainstream … cosmology remain[s] unimpressed.”

First, cosmic design is a minimal component of Behe’s book, which primarily focuses on biological design. Second, there are a variety of respected physicists who believe that cosmic find-tuning is a valid inference from the data. Indeed, Gross seems to have forgotten that numerous physicists have in fact supported the view that the universe was finely-tuned for life. Physicist Paul Davies, who is not a theist, writes that the consensus view is increasingly impressed with the evidence for “some sort of design” of the cosmos:

The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is ‘something behind it all’ is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists.

This view has been echoed by numerous physicists, including Nobel Prize winning physicist Charles Townes, who doesn’t necessarily endorse design in biology, but seems very impressed with arguments for cosmic design:

Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all. The sun couldn’t be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here. Some scientists argue that “well, there’s an enormous number of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.” Well, that’s a postulate, and it’s a pretty fantastic postulate — it assumes there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that ours was planned, and that’s why it has come out so specially.

(Charles Townes quoted in Bonnie Azab Powell, “‘Explore as much as we can’: Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes on evolution, intelligent design, and the meaning of life,” UC Berkeley NewsCenter, June 17 2005.)

Gross has misrepresented the current state of thinking on this matter. Mainstream physicists and cosmologists are not “unimpressed” with the view that the universe shows fine-tuning evidence of cosmic design.

In conclusion, Gross asserted in his review that “it would need a book longer than The Edge to restate the model together with its already noticed (in print and online) errors and omissions.” Yet as we have seen in this 4-part series, it is Gross who has made fundamental misrepresentations of Behe’s arguments, printing the following errors:

  • Labeling a calculation Behe cites, originally derived from a review article in the prestigious Journal of Clinical Investigation “a mere guess;”
  • Ignoring Behe’s methodology for inferring design;
  • Wrongly claiming that Behe ignores exaptation; and
  • Misrepresenting the state of thinking in cosmology regarding cosmic design.
    In the end, according to my word count, this response to Gross rebutted these errors using fewer words than his entire review of Behe.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.



Michael BehePaul GrossThe Edge of Evolution