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Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution

3.5 out of 5 stars 759 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0684834931
ISBN-10: 0684834936
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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 (759 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
I picked this book up several years ago after reading an essay entitled "The Deniable Darwin" by David Berlinski. I thought the book was excellent and recommend it to those seeking to explore the "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design" debate.

Consider those who claim to have debunked this book carefully. The so-called "debunking" of the irreduceable complexity of the bacterial flagellum and the blood-clotting cascade are out there online for anyone who knows how to use a search engine. Check it out. Behe has responded online to his critics as well. Judge for yourself who fares better.

Many of Behe's critics here point to the Dover school board decision as settling the issue once and for all. But science doesn't work that way. Yesterday's heretic is today's hero.

Behe's argument that irreduceable complexity at the cellular level can't be explained by Darwinist principles is a powerful one. He's the barbarian at the gate. Don't take my word for it - listen to the shrill tone of the critics here. They take this book personally - I mean they really hate it. When they defend their theory by personally attacking its critic as they've done here, one has to wonder "What's up"?

What's fascinating is that the critics of Behe's book dismiss him and all of his supporters as religious fanatics. They snort and say "It's not science"... Again, judge for yourselves. This book is what it says it is, a challenge to evolution. So far, they haven't really answered it, although they say they have.

So-called microevolution is not disputed by anyone. Macroevolution is another matter entirely. There is no theory (except for Gould's punctuated equilibrium) that adequately addresses the fossil record.
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