Nathan Lents, Joshua Swamidass, and Richard Lenski review Michael Behe's "Darwin Devolves"

Michael Behe has written a new book, “Darwin Devolves”, which is due to arrive on bookshelves in a couple of weeks. Lents, Swamidass, and Lenski have written a review that appears online at the Science magazine website. The review was required by the magazine to be short, but I think they have hit the nail on the head even with the limitation.

Follow the link ( to read more from Lents and Swamidass and find a link to the review, which is currently behind a paywall. Also of note, Behe has already written a rebuttal on the ENV website (


Behe’s been on this kick for a while, dating back to his article in the Quarterly Review of Biology (or something like that).

His argument has always struck me as akin to presenting countless examples of erosion, avoiding all discussion of tectonic uplift, volcanic action, etc - and then claiming that mountains must be the result of supernatural processes.


This link should take you to the review without a paywall but check me on that.


# Woo-hoo! In Science Review of Darwin Devolves , Lenski Has No Response to My Main Argument

Michael Behe

February 7, 2019, 3:36 PM

That works, thanks @sfmatheson.

“Let me first say this — Woo-hoo!! I’m simply ecstatic about the review. Not because it’s favorable — it surely isn’t. But because it is so embarrassingly, cringe-inducingly weak.”

@aarceng, have you read the review? If so, explain why you agree with Behe’s assessment.


Author: erosion is really, really common. We see it all over the place. Here are hundreds of known examples. Mountains can’t be natural.

Reviewer: the author doesn’t address what we know about all the many, many geological processes that cause rock uplift.

Author: the reviewers don’t even address my main argument!


Behe responded that his main argument was " The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution: Break or blunt any gene whose loss would increase the number of offspring. The rule summarizes the fact that the overwhelming tendency of random mutation is to degrade genes, and that very often is helpful."
Not a very coherent couple of sentences (What is helpful? Helpful for what?) but from what I could understand, nothing new or unusual about his statement on random mutation, as everyone pretty much agrees most mutations are negative or neutral and mostly neutral. The difference is that he ignores the evidence that those mutations are sometimes beneficial, and that even the neutral and negative mutations can be adapted for good in future processes. To go back to the erosion analogy Dr. Venema brought up, quartzite countertops (metamorphic sandstone) are a beautiful and useful product of erosion.
My thanks to the reviewers as they did a great job of summarizing things in a short space.


No Behe doesn’t. “… increase the number of offspring” is the measure of fitness so Behe has acknowledged that some mutations are beneficial.

I have read the review now. I can’t really say how good it is without reading Behe’s book (and the reviews of the reviews of the review). Behe doesn’t seem impressed.

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I see that it will be on Audible when it releases. since I have not been able to read books because of work, that seems a way some of us might be able to catch up to this, too (also the Fool and the Heretic)

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I was referring to his statement, " the overwhelming tendency of random mutation is to degrade genes, and that very often is helpful. Thus natural selection itself acts as a powerful de -volutionary force," but perhaps I over-generalized, so point taken.

If you wrote a book and it was reviewed negatively, would you admit to being impressed by the review? I just think it might be a good idea to actually read the book, as the reviewers have done, before making up your mind about whether or not the review was fair.


Since the book isn’t available yet it’s a bit hard for us to read it.

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Yes, Amazon says it’s not till Feb 26. Amazing how much discussion has already occurred. Wish we were some of the privileged few who get a copy.

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Exactly. That why I’m trying to suggest waiting to see what is in the book BEFORE making up your mind about the review.


@cwhenderson ( and @Marty ):

Frankly, I just don’t “get” what Behe is trying to say …

For years he has been saying that God is the one that makes Evolution work (voila! the flagellum!.. Never would have got there if not for God…)…

And now he writes a book about Evolution trashing genomes… and that’s because why?

Did God make Evolution trash genomes? Or are we supposed to conclude that any trashed genome is because God didn’t raise a finger?

It makes no sense to me what he’s trying to teach…

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With this exchange we can only trust the people whom we have found to be trustworthy before.
The Lenski experiment shows what beneficial mutations are for the simple and constant environment presented to the E coli in that experiment. Also, a contingent mutation was observed. In both cases Behe say’s this is not proof. I disagree. While I can understand Behe wanting (a) confirming experiment(s) to abandon his position, he should stop writing until the matter is resolved.

We’re still waiting for the book but in the meantime Behe has on February 14 posted a longer reply.
Train Wreck of a Review: A Response to Lenski et al. in Science

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