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Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution

734 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684834931
ISBN-10: 0684834936
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Michael J. Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University, presents here a scientific argument for the existence of God. Examining the evolutionary theory of the origins of life, he can go part of the way with Darwin--he accepts the idea that species have been differentiated by the mechanism of natural selection from a common ancestor. But he thinks that the essential randomness of this process can explain evolutionary development only at the macro level, not at the micro level of his expertise. Within the biochemistry of living cells, he argues, life is "irreducibly complex." This is the last black box to be opened, the end of the road for science. Faced with complexity at this level, Behe suggests that it can only be the product of "intelligent design." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Charles Darwin's theory of life's evolution through natural selection and random mutation fails to account for the origin of astonishingly complex biomolecular systems, argues Behe, associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. In this spirited, witty critique of neo-Darwinian thinking, he focuses on five phenomena: blood clotting; cilia, oar-like bundles of fibers; the human immune system; transport of materials within the cell; and the synthesis of nucleotides, building blocks of DNA. In each case, he finds systems that are irreducibly complex?no gradual, step-by-step, Darwinian route led to their creation. As an alternative explanation, Behe infers that complex biochemical systems (i.e., life) were designed by an intelligent agent, whether God, extraterrestrials or a universal force. He notes that Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA's double-helix structure, proposed that life began when aliens from another planet sent a rocket ship containing spores to seed Earth. Perhaps Behe's plea for incorporating a "theory of intelligent design" into mainstream biology will spark interest. Illustrated. Translation and U.K. rights: Simon & Schuster.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 307 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (March 20, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684834936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684834931
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (734 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #404,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I am Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. I received my Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. My current research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures. In addition to teaching and research I work as a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture.

In addition to publishing over 35 articles in refereed biochemical journals, I have also written editorial features in Boston Review, American Spectator, and The New York Times. My book, Darwin's Black Box, discusses the implications for neo-Darwinism of what I call "irreducibly complex" biochemical systems and has sold over 250,000 copies. The book was internationally reviewed in over one hundred publications and recently named by National Review and World magazine as one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century.

I have presented and debated my work at major universities throughout North America and England.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Drew Stein on May 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
No one can possibly deny that this is a well-written, well-explicated book, worthy of any idle summer day. As a student of molecular biology and philosophy, Behe was able to provide explanations for events that I know are well beyond my level, yet still make them accessible. So then, if this book is a well written piece of literature, why are there so many mixed reviews?

The question isn't so much the subject matter, but the context and prejudice the reader brings to it. Both those pro and against this book desperately want it to be Creationist. This is a gross simplification of a very complicated matter. While many authors want to simplify Darwinism and their stance, Behe takes the opposite approach. He mentions irreducible complexities not as a means of awing the reader into believing in a god figure, but to demonstrate that the gradualism preached in Darwinism has many holes in it.

And the fact that Darwinism is fallible is really the core of the issue. After talking to one of my biology professors and one of my bioochem professors, its pretty understood that many points of Darwinism is up for contention. For instance, Darwin proposed that the initial foundation of life would take a much longer time than fossil records show. Behe is not assaulting the principles of aethism and forcing religion on people; rather he asks the question, if Darwin was alive today and knew the things about molecular biology available now, would he still propose his theory?

Behe makes many concessions, going on the record to say that he believes man was descended from a common ancestor as the apes and that the world was created billions of years ago. He also recognizes Darwinism does occur. It just isn't the sole means of evolution, especially at the molecular level.
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273 of 327 people found the following review helpful By I. Westray on November 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Michael Behe's an apologist, by far the best apologist I've run across, for the "argument from design" objection to evolutionary theory. (Essentially argument from design amounts to "See that watch? How could it have come about without a watchmaker? How could any of its parts have originally 'evolved' independently? If they didn't, how did the watch spring up out of nowhere?" And so on.)
Intelligently, Behe recognizes that the argument from design has been responded to pretty thoroughlyat the species level. (For example, evolutionary theory has worked out how the bones of the ear evolved from a bone that articulated reptilian jaws.) So Darwin's Black Box, unlike countless somewhat apoplectic "creationist" writings, chooses the territory for its argument very carefully. Behe concedes natural selection as a force at the level of complete organisms: certain Amazon reviewers seem not to have noticed that he does allow humans and apes a common ancestor, for a glaring example.
The narrowly defined argument Behe wants to stake out is in the biochemical realm. There, he thinks, he can make a case for "irreducible complexity." In short, he thinks he can convince us that the interdependent, complex systems that constitute such things as cilia in cells could not possibly have come about as the piecemeal result of natural selection.
The first half of this book is comprised of lengthy, extremely accessible and enjoyable descriptions of exactly how the smallest cellular mechanisms work. The latter half consists of an attempt to assert the irreducible complexity of those mechanisms. If cilia in cells can't be accounted for by natural selection, says Behe, then there must be intelligent design at work on that level.
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231 of 282 people found the following review helpful By M. Frodsham on December 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I don't really think the harshly negative reviewers get the point, nor are they being fair. Biochemistry was my undergraduate major, and I worked as a geneticist for a few years afterward. From that point of view, I don't think Behe's arguments are inherently flawed or bad science.
As Behe points out, there is a disconnect in evolution's explanation of microscale processes (e.g. biochemical: protein-protein interactions) compared with macroscale processes (e.g., functional gene mutations such as commonly seen in bacteria). It is difficult to see how mostly benign chemicals, that react primarily with respect to strong or electromagnetic forces, necessarily combine in self-advantageous (or self-disadvantageous), reproducible ways under a competitive survival paradigm.
Einstein and his group pointed out that gravity does not work on the chemical level (i.e. microscale). Behe merely points out the same thing with respect to evolution in biomolecules. My only complaint was that Behe inferred the intelligent design aspect too soon in the book. I would have liked more examples of biological irreducible complexity since I'm not sure that's the winning argument. That is, if you take away one piece, or that the mousetrap is made of paper, perhaps it functioned some other way than as a mousetrap. I thought the ATP synthesis was a nice example, but I found myself wanting more.
I thought the killer point Behe made, that I agree with, is the intolerant intellectual atmosphere so pervasive in many areas of science, particularly biology. I believe this has a large a priori effect on the approaches taken in research, or on reporting findings.
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