Meeting Darwin's Wager (Part III)

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Third of three parts; (click here to read part 2)

In late July 1996, Mike Behe sat down in his office, flicked on his computer, and began paging through his e-mail messages. It had been an exhilarating month: his book was finally rolling off the press. He was excited about how well his half-day press briefing had gone in Washington, D.C., in front of dozens of intellectuals and media persons. While vacationing at the Maryland shore with his family, he had received an overnight package from Free Press that contained a copy of his literary first-born. Then, a few days later, word had come that a review would appear in the New York Times Book Review. That news brought excitement mingled with dread: he felt like celebrating, but he wondered if he should brace for an attack.

As Behe scanned the e-mail list, he spotted a message from Phillip Johnson. As he clicked open Johnson's message and scrolled through it, he smiled at his pep talk: "Don't worry, Mike. Even if the Times bashes you in their review, a cultural earthquake will take place [in the United States] on August 4 when they publish it."

A few days later, Behe received an early copy of the review and typed an e-mail report that popped onto computer screens of several dozen colleagues in the design movement: "Good news—I just got the New York Times review. Not bad. Not bad at all. On a scale of one to ten (ten being ecstatic praise, one being a total bashing), it's an eight." Behe could already feel the distant tremors.

As Behe lectures, one of the first questions asked is "What do Darwinians say about your book?" He ticks off three or four recurring responses. A few simply label him a "creationist" and dismiss his arguments without a careful hearing; but that is not ...

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