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Darwin’s House of Cards Gets Praise — And Underinformed Criticism

Jonathan Wells

Tom Bethell

In 2016, veteran journalist Tom Bethell published Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates. Bethell’s odyssey spanned several decades, and the book includes his own interviews with some major figures on both sides of it.

As Bethell acknowledges in his book, I helped with the editing of it. I have a Berkeley PhD in biology, specializing in development and evolution. I am also a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute, which published Bethell’s book.

Recently, BYU professor Dan Peterson blogged about it. Peterson found Darwin’s House of Cards “extremely stimulating” and hoped that “many will seriously engage it.” Several people then posted responses on Peterson’s blog. One critic of the book, using the pseudonym “Prop 8,” asked rhetorically: “Dan, do you think Bethell is being intellectually dishonest of [sic] just being lazy by not citing current reseach [sic] that contradicts much of his assertions?”

For example, Bethell cites a 1971 monograph in which British embryologist (and evolutionary biologist) Gavin de Beer wrote that many homologous features cannot be attributed to similar genes. But current research confirms the fact that homologous genes often underlie non-homologous features, and that non-homologous genes can underlie homologous features.

Prop 8 also ridicules Bethell for maintaining that the relationship between an organism’s DNA and its observable features remains a “mystery.” But a growing number of modern biologists acknowledge that current research is showing just that. There is a lot more to living things than their DNA.

Prop 8 should catch up with current research rather than stoop to name-calling.