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Jerry Coyne Reviews Casey Luskin v. Zack Kopplin Debate Before It Happens

If you can evaluate and dismiss a book before it's been published and before you have an idea what's in it, why not review a debate on the radio before it's happened? Sure, there's no reason to hold back. Jerry Coyne already gave his ludicrous judgment of Darwin's Doubt, Stephen Meyer's book that's out on June 18, and now he reviews the debate between Discovery Institute's Casey Luskin and education activist Zack Kopplin that will happen very shortly today on the Michael Medved Show (1 pm Pacific Time).

Coyne writes:

The young (20) anticreationist activist Zack Kopplin, highlighted in a post this morning, will be debating the Clown Duo, Michael Medved and Casey Luskin (both of the Discovery Institute) at 3 p.m. CDT (4 p.m. EDT) on Medved’s radio show. I presume the topic will be evolution versus intelligent design in the public schools.

First of all, no doubt Kopplin is opposed to creationism, but he's best known for trying (and repeatedly failing) to defeat Louisiana's academic freedom law that has nothing to do with actual creationism and everything to do with protecting teachers who let students know about scientific criticisms of Darwinian evolution. As for the debate, the topic could not possibly be "evolution versus intelligent design in the public schools" -- if by that Coyne means public high schools -- since Casey Luskin and Discovery Institute would strongly counsel against any attempt to introduce instruction about ID into public school biology class.

We've said that over and over again. Kopplin would also oppose the idea. So what's there to debate?

I can only assume Professor Coyne speaks, as he typically does on the subject of anything related to ID, from brazen ignorance. On the other hand, it serves his interests as a Darwin activist not only to confuse the public about the distinction between creationism and serious challenges to Darwinian theory, but to lead the public to think ID advocates are trying to push intelligent design into public school biology classes. The more confused people are about these matters, the better it is for the Darwin Lobby. Misinformation is a favored tactic of theirs.

Speaking of challenges to Darwinism, here's a book that came across my desk and that will be published on June 14 by Oxford University Press. It's Mutation-Driven Evolution by Masatoshi Nei, a molecular evolutionary geneticist at Penn State. Unlike Dr. Coyne, I will not try to evaluate an as yet unpublished book I haven't read, but you can see the summary on the Amazon page:

The purpose of this book is to present a new mechanistic theory of mutation-driven evolution based on recent advances in genomics and evolutionary developmental biology. The theory asserts, perhaps somewhat controversially, that the driving force behind evolution is mutation, with natural selection being of only secondary importance. The word 'mutation' is used to describe any kind of change in DNA such as nucleotide substitution, gene duplication/deletion, chromosomal change, and genome duplication. A brief history of the principal evolutionary theories (Darwinism, mutationism, neo-Darwinism, and neo-mutationism) that preceded the theory of mutation-driven evolution is also presented in the context of the last 150 years of research. However, the core of the book is concerned with recent studies of genomics and the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution, and their relevance to mutation-driven evolution. In contrast to neo-Darwinism, mutation-driven evolution is capable of explaining real examples of evolution such as the evolution of olfactory receptors, sex-determination in animals, and the general scheme of hybrid sterility. In this sense the theory proposed is more realistic than its predecessors, and gives a more logical explanation of various evolutionary events.

So in a book to be published by Oxford University Press next week, we learn, on the authority of the publisher, that neo-Darwinism is not able to explain some important "real examples of evolution," thus calling for a "more realistic," "more logical" alternative theory. In Darwin's Doubt, Dr. Meyer documents how widespread such mainstream scientific criticisms are.

Should the fact of such strong criticism of neo-Darwinism be withheld, as a matter of law or policy, from students in public schools? Should a public school science teacher who discusses Masatoshi Nei's ideas, or atheist philosopher and Darwin critic Thomas Nagel's, be punished? Casey Luskin would say no. On the contrary, a state should protect such a creative, ambitious teacher. Now that seems like a fruitful topic for discussion with Zack Kopplin.