All part of the scientific process? Part 1

Peer review – “[it is] all part of the scientific process,” said Dr. Michael Behe, today. As he has done for other scientists, one “reviews results…techniques… conclusions.”

It has been stated here before that Behe has not submitted his own work on intelligent design for peer review. At the same time, Behe agreed, when asked by plaintiff’s counsel Eric Rothschild if the “peer review for Darwin’s Black Box was analogous to peer review in the [scientific] literature.” It was, according to Behe, even more rigorous. There were more than twice standard the number of reviewers and “they read [the book] more carefully… because this was a controversial topic.”

One such reviewer, said Behe, was Dr. Michael Atchison, head of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school. “He was selected,” Behe said, “because he was the instructor of the editor’s wife.” While Behe was not in touch with him, “Professor Atchison contacted [Behe]…after the book came out.”


Rothschild introduced this article by Professor Atichison, for the purposes of impeachment.

The editor [of Darwin’s Black Box]was not certain that this manuscript was a good risk for publication. There were clearly theological issues at hand, and he was under the impression that these issues would be poorly received by the scientific community…

The editor shared his concerns with his wife. His wife was a student in my class. She advised her husband to give me a call. So, unaware of all this, I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately 10 minutes on the phone. After hearing a description of the work, I suggested that the editor should seriously consider publishing the manuscript…It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript. We hung up and I never thought about it again. At least until two years later.

“Is this your understanding of the kind of peer review that Dr. Atcheson did of your book?” “No,” Behe replied. Rothschild continued, “he didn’t review it carefully… he didn’t review it at all.” Behe: “My understanding is different.”

Atchison goes on in his article, using the events described to imply that God’s will played a role in leading the editor to him and in his own encouragement of the publication of Behe’s book.

Is this the sort of rigorous peer review that science dictates?

Also on the subject of scientific discourse, Behe repeated his oft quoted statement: “I’ve considered [peer-reviewed scientific conferences] to be a poor forum for discussing such ideas” because “you can’t just present ID in an abbreviated fashion.” Yet, when pressed, Behe still insisted that a high school classroom would provide an adequate forum “to mention [such] topics that [students] can pursue outside of the classroom.”

submitted by Amy Laura Cahn, Community Education Organizer, ACLU of Pennsylvania

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