Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Darwin's Black Box The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution Author:Michael J. Behe Virtually all serious scientists accept the truth of Darwin's theory of evolution. While the fight for its acceptance has been a long and difficult one, after a century of struggle among the cognoscenti the battle is over. Biologists are now confident that their remaining questions, such as how life on Earth began, or how the Cambrian explos... more »ion could have produced so many new species in such a short time, will be found to have Darwinian answers. They, like most of the rest of us, accept Darwin's theory to be true.
But should we? What would happen if we found something that radically challenged the now-accepted wisdom? In Darwin's Black Box, Michael Behe argues that evidence of evolution's limits has been right under our noses -- but it is so small that we have only recently been able to see it. The field of biochemistry, begun when Watson and Crick discovered the double-helical shape of DNA, has unlocked the secrets of the cell. There, biochemists have unexpectedly discovered a world of Lilliputian complexity. As Belie engagingly demonstrates, using the examples of vision, bloodclotting, cellular transport, and more, the biochemical world comprises an arsenal of chemical machines, made up of finely calibrated, interdependent parts. For Darwinian evolution to be true, there must have been a series of mutations, each of which produced its own working machine, that led to the complexity we can now see. The more complex and interdependent each machine's parts are shown to be, the harder it is to envision Darwin's gradualistic paths, Behe surveys the professional science literature and shows that it is completely silent on the subject, stymied by the elegance of the foundation of life. Could it be that there is some greater force at work?
Michael Behe is not a creationist. He believes in the scientific method, and he does not look to religious dogma for answers to these questions. But he argues persuasively that biochemical machines must have been designed -- either by God, or by some other higher intelligence. For decades science has been frustrated, trying to reconcile the astonishing discoveries of modern biochemistry to a nineteenth-century theory that cannot accommodate them. With the publication of Darwin's Black Box, it is time for scientists to allow themselves to consider exciting new possibilities, and for the rest of us to watch closely.« less
So you know where I stand, let me state that I'm a big supporter of the theory of evolution. It seems Behe has presented a serious challenge to Darwin's theory of evolution - after all, Darwin's Black Box is by no means an easy book to read, as it presents some very detailed explanations of biological processes.
The problem I have with the book, and Behe and others like him in general, is that it still all boils down to, "We can't figure out how it could have happened 'naturally', so it must have been designed." Behe takes what may be a lack of evidence as proof of a grand Designer, which is in and of itself bad science. This is basically a "God of the gaps" approach, which is no better scientifically than where we were hundreds of years ago when we thought Helios drove his golden chariot across the sky every day.
Having said all that, Behe at least presents a scientific basis for his arguments. It is difficult to say, from a real scientific standpoint, though, that he reaches his conclusion solidly. Many of his arguments have already been disputed with additional scientific findings since the book's publication...you can search for them on the internet and find them here and there.
I first thought this book supported evolution by it's title but it does not. He states early in the book that his purpose it to test evolution not to provide another theory right just that evolution in wrong - it is the "science of gaps". I think he does an excellent job of that. The book contains numerous scientific details that could be overwhelming. He marks them out so a reader has the option to skip part of the scientific explanation because it is so complex. That is his point the complexity of the simplest life form on earth does not support evolution because it is so complex. In addition evolution does not allow for the creation of temporarily useless parts until the whole functioning new parts can be created such as cilia, light sensing mechanism (not a human eye but the simplest "eye"). He also points weaknesses in creationist arguments. He concludes based on evidence that scientists are hanging onto a theory that doesn't work.
Very enjoyable book! A bit weighty if you have no background in biology, probably (family members' eyes tended to glaze over when I described it to them) but worth reading if you want to learn about concrete evidence for intelligent design. Not a religious or creationist book, a molecular biology book. As a biologist with rudimentary understanding of the systems he described, I had no trouble following along. He is thorough and an interesting writer, plus he sets off difficult paragraphs (with lots of jargon, i.e.) with special symbols so you can decide whether to read it.
Eric M. reviewed Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution on
Helpful Score: 1
The issue of man's origins remains a debated topic. This book does stake out a position, it is by no means a neutral source of information. But it is loaded with information that is interesting whether you agree with the author's conclusions or not.
Michael Behe is a microbiologist who makes the case for more than the appearance of design in life on this planet. Many agree there is at least the appearance of design, but Behe goes on to say there is design. He does not take up who or what that intelligence might be, but does take aim at the prevailing opinion that random events over millions of years explains the life we observe in the fossil record and in the biosphere.
The approach is a combination of proof of complexity in life and data from information science to make the case that the diversity of living things could not have happened with random events, no matter how many millions or billions of years are allowed. The complexity he brings into focus are the "miniature machines" that make up a living thing and the proteins that compose them. His proof is what can be plainly seen under a scanning electron microscope.
I loved the style he used because I love details. But a book loaded with factual details often confuses the reader resulting in the reader missing the point. Behe places the details in specially-marked sections that the reader knows are optional reading. You can follow the logic and assume he knows what he's talking about, or follow the logic and dive into the microscopic world of structures such as cilia, or processes such as blood clotting in mammals to see why he makes the point. Even though I had to re-read these sections slowly, the information was fascinating to me.
I found it a great read, especially considering a scientist wrote it. But you need not worry that it moves along the way a textbook does. It read to me more like the results of investigation and the implications of those results. It is largely a work for those who care about the debate over the origin of life and want to know more about a relatively new aspect to the debate.