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Coyne: “The Tuxedo Is Fraying”!


Over the weekend I took a look at the hysterical attempt, via the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to link Mike Behe and Darwin Devolves with a measles upsurge and catastrophic climate change. That’s one approach to dealing with a book you don’t like.

Now biologist Jerry Coyne weighs in at the Washington Post with his own review. It’s an improvement over the Science review, at least, as I count two whole paragraphs seeking to rebut the main thesis of the book that unguided Darwinian evolution is “self-limiting.”

I’ll let others respond on that. While Coyne has nothing to offer to compare with madly tarring Behe with global health threats as the AAAS does, he offers a gem in his own way. It’s not too often you see a denser collation of cliché taunts directed at intelligent design. It’s all here, from the “Wedge Document” to Behe as a “pious Catholic” to ID as “rejected…by judges” and “outed as disguised religion,” “derived from religion,” to “Who, exactly, is the designer?” to “neo-creationism,” “a mere re-labeling of creationism” (quoting Judge Jones), to “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”

The potted false history is not left out, how ID “arose after opponents of evolution repeatedly failed on First Amendment grounds to get Bible-based creationism taught in the public schools,” nor the expected complaint about Behe’s choice of a publisher.

The Hoariest Cliché of All

The “tuxedo is fraying,” warns Professor Coyne, a delightful attempt to spruce up the hoariest cliché of all. I dare you to tell me what’s missing. Actually, there’s one ultra-hackneyed attack he leaves out. He forgets to demand, as if this settled the whole matter, “Who designed the designer?” Even Coyne nods.

Professor Coyne’s headline is perfectly juvenile: “Intelligent design gets even dumber.” Uh huh. Meanwhile, as I write, the current top story at his own website, Why Evolution Is True, informs the science community with the news that “Maru plays the drums,” referring to the Japanese cat and YouTube star who “has been on the Internet for eleven years.” Wow, eleven years. Has it really been that long? And the cat can play a drum with its tail!

Why does it matter? From my perspective as a science consumer, ID’s case could be wrong and it could be right. But credit it with this: the argument it presents, in the work of ID proponents like Behe, Meyer, Axe, Dembski, and others, is continually building. It’s dynamic, highly substantive, evolutionary you might say. It doesn’t depend on appeals to religion, but also not to emotion, to demonization, to cultural stereotypes, to clichés. ID has that over its opponents.

If the evidence of design is worth addressing at all, it’s worth addressing adequately on its own terms. And those terms are not static and stale, as the critiques from Darwinists overwhelmingly tend to be. Come on, guys. Let’s do better.

Photo credit: Victor Rodvang via Unsplash.