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Let Us Now Praise Courageous Men

It takes courage to stand for a position that few in your profession espouse. It takes courage to persist in the face of blatant misrepresentation by other scientists and ridicule and sniping from the Internet peanut gallery. It takes courage to continue, despite the loss of funding, collaboration, and position.

One man has been bearing this for more than twenty years now, with grace and good humor. The other has only taken a stand in the last several years, but he has already paid the price.

So now, the second man honors the first, by naming a newly described species of damsel-dragonfly for him. And what a specimen it is. Nearly complete, with well-preserved wings and other body parts, and measuring 4.5 inches in wing span, it is one of the largest, best preserved fossil damsel-dragonflies (Odonates) of the early Jurassic. It represents not just a new species, but a new genus as well, allowing the characterization of a family previously known only by isolated wings.

It is a fitting homage that Günter Bechly should name this fossil for Michael Behe, the man who helped inspire him to reexamine his views on neo-Darwinism. It is also fitting that this fossil reveals a unique pattern of traits. Its wing venation patterns are a mosaic of characters found in multiple different Odonates, making the damsel-dragonfly  a pastiche best explained by design rather than common descent.

As I said, it takes courage to stand in the face of heated opposition. So I found it truly moving when Günter Bechly honored Michael Behe, the man who inspired him. There is nothing I can do to add to the gesture except to salute them both.

Photos: Michael Behe (top), Günter Bechly (middle), screen shots from Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines, courtesy of Discovery Institute; Chrismooreia michaelbehei (below), by Günter Bechly.