Darwin's Black Box The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution By: Michael J. Behe ساهم في الإعداد



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Part III: What Does The Box Tell Us?

Chapter 8: Publish or Perish

  • Nonetheless, some scientists are interested in evolution and have published a large amount of work in the professional literature. If complex biochemical systems are unexplained, what type of biochemical work has been published under the heading of «evolution»? In this chapter you will see what has been studied—and what hasn't. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p165.]

  • Each monthly issue of JME contains about ten scientific papers on various aspects of molecular evolution. Ten papers per month means about a hundred papers per year, and about a thousand papers per decade. A survey of a thousand papers in a particular area can give you a pretty good idea of what problems have been solved, what problems are being addressed, and what problems are being ignored. A look back over the last decade shows that the papers in JME can be divided pretty easily into three separate categories: chemical synthesis of molecules thought necessary for the origin of life, comparisons of DNA or protein sequences, and abstract mathematical models. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p166.]

  • The origin-of-life question is tremendously important and interesting. Biology must ultimately deal with the question: even if life evolves by natural selection acting on variation, how did life get there in the first place? Publications concerned with the chemical synthesis of molecules thought to be necessary for the origin of life constitute about 10 percent of all papers in JME. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p166.]



  • In light of these well-publicized successes an outsider can be excused for feeling a sense of shock when he stumbles across pessimistic reviews of origin-of-life research in the professional literature, such as one written by Klaus Dose, a prominent worker in the field. In his assessment of the state of the problem, Dose pulls no punches. "More than 30 years of experimentation on the origin of life in the fields of chemical and molecular evolution have led to a better perception of the immensity of the problem of the origin of life on Earth rather than to its solution. At present all discussions on principal theories and experiments in the field either end in stalemate or in a confession of ignorance." [Dose, K. (1988) «The Origin of Life: More Questions than Answers,» Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 13, 348.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p168.]

  • A convincing origin-of-life scenario requires that intelligent direction of the chemical reactions be minimized as far as possible. Nonetheless, the involvement of some intelligence is unavoidable. Reasonable guesses about what substances were available on the early earth—such as Stanley Miller made—are a necessary starting point. The trick for the researcher is to choose a probable starting point, then keep his hands off. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p169.]

  • In his book reviewing the difficulties of origin-of-life theories, Robert Shapiro notes that work on proteinoids has produced a startling unanimity of opinion:"[The proteinoid theory] has attracted a number of vehement critics, ranging from chemist Stanley Miller ... to Creationist Duane Gish. On perhaps no other point in origin-of-life theory could we find such harmony between evolutionists and Creationists as in opposing the relevance of the experiments of Sidney Fox" [Shapiro, R. (1986) Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Summit Books, New York, p. 192.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p170.]

  • Imagining a realistic scenario whereby natural processes may have made proteins on a prebiotic earth—although extremely difficult—is a walk in the park compared to imagining the formation of nucleic acids such as RNA. The big problem is that each nucleotide «building block» is itself built up from several components, and the processes that form the components are chemically incompatible. Although a chemist can make nucleotides with ease in a laboratory by synthesizing the components separately, purifying them, and then recombining the components to react with each other, undirected chemical reactions overwhelmingly produce undesired products and shapeless goop on the bottom of the test tube. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p171.]

  • Gerald Joyce and Leslie Orgel—two scientists who have worked long and hard on the origin of life problem—call RNA «the prebiotic chemist's nightmare.» They are brutally frank: "Scientists interested in the origins of life seem to divide neatly into two classes. The first, usually but not always molecular biologists, believe that RNA must have been the first replicating molecule and that chemists are exaggerating the difficulties of nucleotide synthesis.... The second group of scientists are much more pessimistic. They believe that the de novo appearance of oligonucleotides on the primitive earth would have been a near miracle. (The authors subscribe to this latter view). Time will tell which is correct" [Shapiro, R. (1986) Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Summit Books, New York, p. 192.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p171.]

  • Even if the miracle-like coincidence should occur and RNA be produced, however, Joyce and Orgel see nothing but obstacles ahead. In an article section entitled «Another Chicken-and-Egg Paradox» they write the following: "This discussion ... has, in a sense, focused on a straw man: the myth of a self-replicating RNA molecule that arose de novo from a soup of random polynucleotides. Not only is such a notion unrealistic in light of our current understanding of prebiotic chemistry, but it should strain the credulity of even an optimist's view of RNA's catalytic potential...Without evolution it appears unlikely that a self-replicating ribozyme could arise, but without some form of self-replication there is no way to conduct an evolutionary search for the first, primitive self-replicating ribozyme." .] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p171, 172.]

  • In other words, the miracle that produced chemically intact RNA would not be enough. Since the vast majority of RNAs do not have useful catalytic properties, a second miraculous coincidence would be needed to get just the right chemically intact RNA. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p172.]

  • Scientists working on the origin of life deserve a lot of credit; they have attacked the problem by experiment and calculation, as science should. And although the experiments have not turned out as many hoped, through their efforts we now have a clear idea of the staggering difficulties that would face an origin of life by natural chemical processes. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p172.]

  • In private many scientists admit that science has no explanation for the beginning of life. [Although many statements within the scientific community's own journals and books are pessimistic, public statements to the news media tend to be of the everything-is-under-control variety. University of Memphis rhetorician John Angus Campbell has observed that «huge edifices of ideas—such as positivism—never really die. Thinking people gradually abandon them and even ridicule them among themselves, but keep the persuasively useful parts to scare away the uninformed.» Campbell, J. A. (1994) «The Comic Frame and the Rhetoric of Science: Epistemology and Ethics in Darwin's Origin,» Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 24, 27-50. This certainly applies to the way the scientific community handles questions on the origin of life.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p172, 173.]

  • The reason for this peculiar circumstance is that while chemists try to test origin-of-life scenarios by experiment or calculation, evolutionary biologists make no attempt to test evolutionary scenarios at the molecular level by experiment or calculation. As a result, evolutionary biology is stuck in the same frame of mind that dominated origin-of-life studies in the early fifties, before most experiments had been done: imagination running wild. Biochemistry has, in fact, revealed a molecular world that stoutly resists explanation by the same theory so long applied at the level of the whole organism. Neither of Darwin's starting points—the origin of life, and the origin of vision—has been accounted for by his theory. Darwin never imagined the exquisitely profound complexity that exists even at the most basic levels of life. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p173.]

  • The second category of papers commonly found in the Journal of Molecular Evolution, accounting for about 5 percent of the total, concerns Mathematical models for evolution or new mathematical methods for comparing and interpreting sequence data. (...) Although useful for understanding how gradual processes behave over time, the mathematics assumes that real-world evolution is a gradual random process; it does not (and cannot) demonstrate it. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p173, 174.]

  • Although useful for determining possible lines of descent, which is an interesting question in its own right, comparing sequences cannot show how a complex biochemical system achieved its function—the question that most concerns us in this book.18 By way of analogy, the instruction manuals for two different models of computer put out by the same company might have many identical words, sentences, and even paragraphs, suggesting a common ancestry (perhaps the same author wrote both manuals), but comparing the sequences of letters in the instruction manuals will never tell us if a computer can be produced step-by-step starting from a typewriter. [18. Indeed, some proteins we have discussed in this book have sequences or shapes similar to other proteins. For example, antibodies are shaped similarly to a protein called superoxide dismutase, which helps protect the cell against damage by oxygen. And rhodopsin, which is used in vision, is similar to a protein found in bacteria, called bacteriorhodopsin, which is involved in the production of energy. Nonetheless, the similarities tell us nothing about how vision or the immune system could develop step-by-step. One would have hoped that finding proteins with similar sequences would lead to the proposal of models for how complex biochemical systems might have developed. Conversely, the fact that such sequence comparisons do not help us understand the origins of complex biochemical systems weighs heavily against a theory of gradual evolution.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p175.]

  • The three general topics of papers published in JME—the origin of life, mathematical models of evolution, and sequence analyses—have included many intricate, difficult, and erudite studies. Does such valuable and interesting work contradict this book's message? Not at all. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p175.]

  • To say that Darwinian evolution cannot explain everything in nature is not say that evolution, random mutation, and natural selection do not occur; they have been observed (at least in cases of microevolution) many different times. Like the sequence analysts, I believe the evidence strongly supports common descent. But the root question remains unanswered: What has caused complex systems to form? No one has ever explained in detailed, scientific fashion how mutation and natural selection could build the complex, intricate structures discussed in this book. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p175, 176.]

  • In fact, none of the papers published in JME over the entire course of its life as a journal has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual, step-by-step Darwinian fashion. Although many scientists ask how sequences can change or how chemicals necessary for life might be produced in the absence of cells, no one has ever asked in the pages of JME such questions as the following: How did the photosynthetic reaction center develop? How did intramolecular transport start? How did cholesterol biosynthesis begin? How did retinal become involved in vision? How did phosphoprotein signaling pathways develop? The very fact that none of these problems is even addressed, let alone solved, is a very strong indication that Darwinism is an inadequate framework for understanding the origin of complex biochemical systems. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p176.]

  • Attempts to explain the evolution of highly specified, irreducibly complex systems—either mousetraps or cilia or blood clotting—by a gradualism: route have so far been incoherent as we have seen in previous chapters. No scientific journal will publish patently incoherent papers, so no studies asking detailed questions of molecular evolution are to be found. Calvin and Hobbes stories can sometimes be spun by ignoring critical details, as Russell Doolittle did when imagining the evolution of blood clotting, but even such superficial attempts are rare. In fact, evolutionary explanations even of systems that do not appear to be irreducibly complex, such as specific metabolic pathways, are missing from the literature. The reason for this appears to be similar to the reason for the failure to explain the origin of life: a choking complexity strangles all such attempts. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p177.]

  • No papers were published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) that proposed detailed routes by which complex biochemical structures might have developed. Surveys of other biochemistry journals show the same result: sequences upon sequences, but no explanations. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p178.]

  • The advantage of a book is that it gives the author a lot of room to develop his or her ideas. Setting a new idea in context, bringing in appropriate examples, explaining a lot of detailed steps, meeting many anticipated objections—all of this can take a fair amount of space. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p178.]

  • A good example in the modern evolution literature is a book called The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution by Motoo Kimura.20 In the book he had the room to explain his idea that most sequence changes that occur in DNA and proteins do not affect the way they do their jobs; the mutations are neutral. [Kimura, M. (1983) The Neutral Theory of Evolution, Cambridge University Press, New York.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p178.]

  • A second example is The Origins of Order by Stuart Kauffman, who argues that the origins of life, metabolism, genetic programs, and body plans are all beyond Darwinian explanation but may arise spontaneously through self-organization.21 [Kauffman, S. A. (1993) The Origins of Order: Self-Organization and Selection in Evolution, Oxford University Press, New York.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p178.]

  • Neither book explains biochemical structures: Kimura's work has to do simply with sequences, and Kauffman's is a mathematical analysis. But perhaps in one of the libraries of the world there is a book that tells us how specific biochemical structures came to be. Unfortunately, a computer search of library catalogs shows there is no such book. That isn't too surprising in this day and age; even books like Kimura's and Kauffman's that propose new theories are usually preceded by papers on the topic that are first published in scientific journals. The absence of papers on the evolution of biochemical structures in the journals just about kills any chance of there being a book published on the matter. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p178.]

  • During a computer search for books on biochemical evolution, you come across a number of juicy titles. For example, a book by John Gillespie was published in 1991 with the enticing name The Causes of Molecular Evolution. But it does not concern specific biochemical systems. It is, like Kauffmans, a mathematical analysis that leaves out all of the specific features of organisms, reducing them to mathematical symbols and then manipulating the symbols. Nature is blanched. (I should add that, of course, mathematics is an extremely powerful tool. But math is useful to science only when the assumptions the mathematical analysis starts with are true.) [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p178, 179.]

  • The search can be extended, but the results are the same. There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p179.]

  • Many scientists are skeptical that Darwinian mechanisms can explain all of life, but a large number do believe it. Since we have just seen that the professional biochemical literature contains no papers or books that explain in detail how complex systems might have arisen, why is Darwinism nonetheless credible with many biochemists? A large part of the answer is that they have been taught as part of their biochemical training that Darwinism is true. To understand both the success of Darwinism as orthodoxy and its failure as science at the molecular level, we have to examine the textbooks that are used to teach aspiring scientists. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p179, 180.]

  • One of the most successful texts of biochemistry over the past several decades was first written in 1970 by Albert Lehninger, a professor of biophysics at Johns Hopkins University, and has been updated several times over the years. On the first page of the first chapter of his first textbook, Lehninger mentions evolution. He asks why the biomolecules that occur in virtually all cells appear to be extraordinarily well fitted to their tasks: In this chapter, the first in a series of 12 devoted to the structures and properties of the major classes of biomolecules, we shall develop the idea that biomolecules should be studied from two points of view. We must of course examine their structure and properties as we would those of nonbiological molecules, by the principles and approaches used in classical chemistry. But we must also examine them in the light of the hypothesis that biomolecules are the products of evolutionary selection, that they may be the fittest possible molecules for their biological function.24 [Lehninger, A. L. (1970) Biochemistry, Worth Publishers, New York, p. 17.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p180.]

  • In all, there are nearly 6,000 entries in the index, but only 2 under the heading of «evolution.» The first citation is in a discussion of the sequences of proteins; as discussed earlier, however, although sequence data can be used to infer relationships, they cannot be used to determine how a complex biochemical structure originated. Lehninger's second reference is to a chapter on the origin of life in which he discusses proteinoids and other topics that have not stood the test of time. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p180, 181.]

  • The extra references to evolution in the newest edition of the Lehninger text can all be fit into three categories: sequence similarity, comments on the ancestry of cells, and pious but unsupported attributions of a feature to evolution. But none of these, even in principle, can tell us how molecular machinery arose step by step. In no instance is a detailed route given by which any complex biochemical system might have arisen in a Darwinian manner. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p181, 182.]

  • A survey of thirty biochemistry textbooks (summarized in Table 8—1) used in major universities over the past generation shows that many textbooks ignore evolution completely. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p182.]

  • Many students learn from their textbooks how to view the world through an evolutionary lens. However, they do not learn how Darwinian evolution might have produced any of the remarkably intricate biochemical systems that those texts describe. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p183.]

  • The first way to know something is, of course, through personal experience. (...) The second way to know things is by authority. That is, you rely on some source of information, believing it to be reliable, when you have no experience of your own. So almost every person who has gone to school believes that the earth goes around the sun, even though very few people would be able to tell you how anybody could even detect that motion. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p184.]

  • Many people believe democracy is superior to other forms of government even though they haven't lived under any other type. They rely on the authority of textbooks and politicians, and perhaps on verbal or pictorial descriptions of what it's like in other societies. Of course other societies do the same, and most of their defenders rely on authority. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p184.]

  • Scientists are people, too, so we can ask how scientists know what they say they know. Like everybody else, scientists know things either through their own experience or through authority. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p185.]



  • In the 1950s, Watson and Crick saw a diffraction pattern produced by shining X-rays on fibers of DNA and, using their mathematical abilities, determined that DNA was a double helix. They knew by doing, from their own experience. As an undergraduate I learned DNA is a double helix, but I have never done an experiment to show it; I rely on authority. All scientists rely on authority for almost all of their scientific knowledge. If you ask a scientist how she knows about the structure of cholesterol, or the behavior of hemoglobin, or the role of vitamins, she will almost always point you to the scientific literature rather than to her own records of what she has done in her laboratory. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p185.]

  • The nice thing about science is that authority is easy to locate: it's in the library. Watson and Crick's work on DNA structure can be tracked down and read in Nature. The structure of cholesterol and other things can be found there as well. So we can say we know the structure of DNA or cholesterol based on scientific authority if papers on those topics are in the literature. If James Watson or a Presidential Science Commission decreed that DNA was made of green cheese, however, but didn't publish supporting evidence in the literature, then we could not say that a belief in cheesy DNA was based on scientific authority. Scientific authority rests on published work, not on the musings of individuals. Moreover, the published work must also contain pertinent evidence. If Watson published a bare statement about the curdled composition of DNA in a paper largely devoted to something else, but provided no relevant support, then we still have no scientific authority to back up the claim. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p185.]

  • Molecular evolution is not based on scientific authority. There is no publication in the scientific literature—in prestigious journals, specialty journals, or books—that describes how molecular evolution of any real, complex, biochemical system either did occur or even might have occurred. There are assertions that such evolution occurred, but absolutely none are supported by pertinent experiments or calculations. Since no one knows molecular evolution by direct experience, since there is no authority on which to base claims of knowledge, it can truly be said that ... the assertion of Darwinian molecular evolution is merely bluster. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p185, 186.]

  • «Publish or perish» is a proverb that academicians take seriously. If you do not publish your work for the rest of the community to evaluate, then you have no business in academia (and if you don't already have tenure, you will be banished). But the saying can be applied to theories as well. If a theory claims to be able to explain some phenomenon but does not generate even an attempt at an explanation, then it should be banished. Despite comparing sequences and mathematical modeling, molecular evolution has never addressed the question of how complex structures came to be. In effect, the theory of Darwinian molecular evolution has not published, and so it should perish. But we are here. Plants and animals are here. The complex systems are here. All these things got here somehow: if not in a Darwinian fashion, then how? [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p186.]

Chapter 9: Intelligent Design

  • No one at Harvard University, no one at the National Institutes of Health, no member of the National Academy of Sciences, no Nobel prize winner—no one at all can give a detailed account of how the cilium, or vision, or blood clotting, or any complex biochemical process might have developed in a Darwinian fashion. But we are here. Plants and animals are here. The complex systems are here. All these things got here somehow: if not in a Darwinian fashion, then how? [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p187.]

  • Clearly, if something was not put together gradually, then it must have been put together quickly or even suddenly. If adding individual pieces does not continuously improve the function of a system, then multiple pieces have to be added together. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p187.]

  • For purposes of argument, however, let's suppose that the symbiosis Margulis envisions was in fact a common occurrence throughout the history of life. The important question for us biochemists is, can symbiosis explain the origin of complex biochemical systems? Clearly it cannot. The essence of symbiosis is the joining of two separate cells, or two separate systems, both of which are already functioning. In the mitochondrion scenario, one preexisting viable cell entered a symbiotic relationship with another such cell. Neither Margulis nor anyone else has offered a detailed explanation of how the preexisting cells originated. Proponents of the symbiotic theory of mitochondria explicitly assume that the invading cells could already produce energy from foodstuffs; they explicitly assume that the host cell already was able to maintain a stable internal environment that would benefit the symbiont. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p189.]

  • Because symbiosis starts with complex, already-functioning systems, it cannot account for the fundamental biochemical systems we have discussed in this book. Symbiosis theory may have important points to make about the development of life on earth, but it cannot explain the ultimate origins of complex systems. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p189.]

  • For the sake of argument, however, let us suppose that complexity theory is true—that complex mixtures somehow organized themselves, and that had something to do with the origin of life. Granted its premises, can complexity theory explain the complex biochemical systems we have discussed in this book? I don't believe so. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p191.]

  • Complexity theory may yet make important contributions to mathematics, and it may still make modest contributions to biochemistry. But it cannot explain the origin of the complex biochemical structures that undergird life. It doesn't even try. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p192.]

  • They were designed not by the laws of nature, not by chance and necessity; rather, they were planned. The designer knew what the systems would look like when they were completed, then took steps to bring the systems about. Life on earth at its most fundamental level, in its most critical components, is the product of intelligent activity. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p193.]

  • The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself—not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs. Inferring that biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent is a humdrum process that requires no new principles of logic or science. It comes simply from the hard work that biochemistry has done over the past forty years, combined with consideration of the way in which we reach conclusions of design every day. Nonetheless, saying that biochemical systems were designed will certainly strike many people as strange, so let me try to make it sound less strange. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p193.]

  • What is «design»? Design is simply the purposeful arrangement of parts. With such a broad definition we can see that anything might have been designed. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p193.]

  • The scientific problem then becomes, how do we confidently detect design? When is it reasonable to conclude, in the absence of firsthand knowledge or eyewitness accounts, that something has been designed? For discrete physical systems—if there is not a gradual route to their production—design is evident when a number of separate, interacting components are ordered in such a way as to accomplish a function beyond the individual components.3 The greater the specificity of the interacting components required to produce the function, the greater is our confidence in the conclusion of design. [Detecting design in patterns of coin flips or other systems that do not physically interact is done in other ways. See Dembski, W. (1996) The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities, Ph.D. dissertation, University of Illinois.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p194.]

  • In considering design, the function of the system we must look at is the one that requires the greatest amount of the system's internal complexity. We can then judge how well the parts fit the function.4 [This is a judgment call. One can never prove that a particular function is the only one that might be intended—or even that it is intended. But our evidence can get pretty persuasive nonetheless.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p196.]

  • Inferences to design do not require that we have a candidal role of designer. We can determine that a system was designed by examining the system itself, and we can hold the conviction of design much more strongly than a conviction about the identity of the designer. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p196.]

  • The inference to design can be made with a high degree of confidence even when the designer is very remote. Archeologists digging for a lost city might come across square stones, buried dozens of feet under the earth, with pictures of camels and cats, griffins and dragons. Even if that were all they found, they would conclude that the stones had been designed. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p197.]

  • The conclusion that something was designed can be made quite independently of knowledge of the designer. As a matter of procedure, thе design must first be apprehended before there can be any further question about the designer. The inference to design can be held with the firmness that is possible in this world, without knowing anything about the designer. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p197.]

  • Anyone can tell that Mt. Rushmore was designed—but, as the king of Siam often said, this too shall pass. As time marches and rains fall and winds gust, Mt. Rushmore will change its shape. Millennia in the future, people may pass the mountain and see just the barest hint of faces in the rocks. Could a person conclude that an eroded Mt. Rushmore had been designed? It depends. The inference to design requires the identification of separate components that have been ordered to accomplish a purpose, and the strength of the inference is not an easy matter to quantify. An eroded Mt. Rushmore might give future archeologists fits if they could only see what looked like an ear, a nose, a bottom lip, and maybe a chin, each from a different presidential image. The parts really aren't ordered to each other and might be simply an unusual rock formation. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p198.]

  • As the number and quality of the components that fit together to form the system increases, we can be more and more confident of the conclusion of design. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p198.]

  • As the number or quality of the parts of an interacting system increase, our judgment of design increases also and can reach certitude. It is hard to quantify these things.5 But it is easy to conclude that a system of such detail as the completed bacterial Elvis was designed. [It is hard to quantify design, but it is not impossible, and future research should proceed in this direction. An excellent start has been made by Bill Dembski in his dissertation (Dembski, 1996), which attempts to quantify the design inference in terms of what he calls the «probabilistic resources» of a system.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p199.]

  • The new protein is the product of intelligent design. Someone with knowledge of the blood-clotting system sat down at his desk and sketched out a route to produce a protein that would combine the clot-dissolving properties of plasmin with the rapid-activation property of proteins that are cleaved by thrombin. The designer knew what the end product of his work was going to do, and he worked to achieve that goal. After the plan was drawn up, the designer (or his graduate student) went into the laboratory and took steps to carry out the plan. The result is a protein that no one in the world has ever seen before— a protein that will carry out the plan of the designer. Biochemical systems can indeed be designed. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p201.]

  • The fact that biochemical systems can be designed by intelligent agents for their own purposes is conceded by all scientists, even Richard Dawkins. In his newest book Dawkins envisions a hypothetical scenario where a leading scientist is kidnaped and forced to work on biological weapons for an evil, militaristic country.10 The scientist gets help by encoding a message in the DNA sequence of an influenza virus: he infects himself with the altered virus, sneezes on a crowd of people, and patiently waits for the flu to spread around the world, confident that other scientists will isolate the virus, sequence its DNA, and decipher his code. Since Dawkins agrees that biochemical systems can be designed, and that people who did not see or hear about the designing can nonetheless detect it, then the question of whether a given biochemical system was designed boils down simply to adducing evidence to support design. [Dawkins, R. (1995) River Out of Eden, Basic Books, New York, pp. 17-18.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p203.]

  • Throughout this book, however, I have shown why many biochemical systems cannot be built up by natural selection working on mutations: no direct, gradual route exists to these irreducibly complex systems, and the laws of chemistry work strongly against the undirected development of the biochemical systems that make molecules such as AMP. Alternatives to gradualism that work through unintelligent causes, such as symbiosis and complexity theory, cannot (and do not even try to) explain the fundamental biochemical machines of life. If natural laws peculiar to life cannot explain a biological system, then the criteria for concluding design become the same as for inanimate systems. There is no magic point of irreducible complexity at which Darwinism is logically impossible. But the hurdles for gradualism become higher and higher as structures are more complex, more interdependent. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p203.]

  • In the face of the massive evidence we do have for biochemical design, ignoring that evidence in the name of a phantom process would be to play the role of the detectives who ignore an elephant. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p204.]

  • Just because we can infer that some biochemical systems were designed does not mean that all subcellular systems were explicitly designed. Further, some systems may have been designed, but proving their design may be difficult. (…) Detecting design in the cilium might be a piece of cake, but design in another system might be borderline or undetectable. It turns out that the cell contains systems that span the range from obviously designed to no apparent design. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p205.]

  • Since anything could have been designed, and since we need to adduce evidence to show design, it is not surprising that we can be more successful in demonstrating design with one biochemical system and less successful with another. Some features of the cell appear to be the result of simple natural processes, others probably so. Still other features were almost certainly designed. And with some features, we can be as confident that they were designed as that anything was. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p205.]

Chapter 10: Questions About Design

  • The early Greek philosopher Diogenes saw design in the regularity of the seasons: "Such a distribution would not have been possible without Intelligence, that all things should have their measure: winter and summer and night and day and rain and winds and periods of fine weather; other things also, if one will study them closely, will be found to have the best possible arrangement." [Cited in Barrow, J. D., and Tipler, F.J. (1986) The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 36.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p210.]

  • Socrates is said to have observed:"Is it not to be admired ... that the mouth through which the food is conveyed should be placed so near the nose and eyes as to prevent the passage unnoticed of whatever is unfit for nourishment? And cans't thou still doubt, Aristodemus, whether a disposition of parts like this should be the work of chance, or of wisdom and contrivance." [Cited in Barrow, J. D., and Tipler, F.J. (1986) The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 36.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p211.]

  • Arguments to design based on the bare assertion of their «rightness» evaporate like the morning dew when faced with the least skepticism. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p211.]

  • Richard Dawkins's The Blind Watch-maker takes its title from Paley's watch analogy but claims that evolution, rather than an intelligent agent, plays the role of the watchmaker: Paley drives his point home with beautiful and reverent descriptions of the dissected machinery of life, beginning with the human eye... Paley's argument is made with passionate sincerity and is informed by the best biological scholarship of his day, but it is wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong...If [natural selection] can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is the blind watchmaker. . . . But one thing I shall not do is belittle the wonder of the living «watches» that so inspired Paley. On the contrary, I shall try to illustrate my feeling that here Paley could have gone even further.4 [Dawkins, R. (1985) The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, London, p. 5.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p213.]

  • But exactly where, we may ask, was Paley refuted? Who has answered his argument? How was the watch produced without an intelligent designer? It is surprising but true that the main argument of the discredited Paley has actually never been refuted. Neither Darwin nor Dawkins, neither science nor philosophy, has explained how an irreducibly complex system such as a watch might be produced without a designer. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p213.]

  • Paley is at his best when writing about mechanical systems. Concerning the heart, he observes as follows: "It is evident that it must require the interposition of valves—that the success indeed of its action must depend upon these; for when any one of its cavities contracts, the necessary tendency of the force will be to drive the enclosed blood not only into the mouth of the artery where it ought to go, but also back again into the mouth of the vein from which it flowed... The heart, constituted as it is, can no more work without valves that a pump can" [Paley, W. Natural Theology, American Tract Society, New York, pp. 110-111.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p214.]

  • To be charitable, Paley may have thought that his strong examples made design inevitable, and he used the weak examples as icing on the cake. He likely didn't anticipate that later opponents would refute his argument by attacking the icing. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p215.]

  • The philosopher David Hume argued against design in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, published in 1779. In The Blind Watchmaker Richard Dawkins recalls a dinner conversation with «a well-known atheist» that touched on the subject: I said that I could not imagine being an atheist at any time before 1859, when Darwin's Origin of Species was published. 'What about Hume?', replied the philosopher. «How did Hume explain the organized complexity of the living world?» I asked. «He didn't,» said the philosopher. «Why does it need any special explanation?»9 [Dawkins, R. (1985) The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, London, p. 5.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p217.]

  • Dawkins goes on to explain: As for David Hume himself, it is sometimes said that that great Scottish philosopher disposed of the Argument from Design a century before Darwin. But what Hume did was criticize the logic of using apparent design in nature as positive evidence for the existence of a God. He did not offer an alternative explanation for complex biological design.10 [Dawkins, R. (1985) The Blind Watchmaker, W. W. Norton, London, p. 6.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p217.]

  • A modern philosopher, Elliott Sober of the University of Wisconsin, in his book Philosophy of Biology, explains Hume's reasoning for us in more detail: Hume believes ... we must ask how similar watches and organisms really are. A moment's reflection shows that they are very dissimilar. Watches are made of glass and metal; they do not breathe, excrete, metabolize, or reproduce... The immediate consequence, of course, is that the design argument is a very weak analogy argument. It is preposterous to infer that organisms have a given property simply because watches happen to have it.11 [Sober, E. (1993) Philosophy of Biology, Westview Press, Boulder, Co, p. 34.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p217.]

  • But Sober does not agree with Hume: Although Hume's criticism is devastating if the design argument is an argument from analogy, I see no reason why the design argument must be construed in this way. Paley's argument about organisms stands on its own, regardless of whether watches and organisms happen to be similar. The point of talking about watches is to help the reader see that the argument about organisms is compelling.12 [Sober, E. (1993) Philosophy of Biology, Westview Press, Boulder, Co, p. 34-35.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p217.]

  • Incidentally, even by Hume's criteria, the analogy between а watch and a living organism could be made very strong. Modern biochemistry probably could make a watch, or a time-keeping device, out of biological materials—if not now, then certainly in the near future. Many biochemical systems keep time, including the cells that pace the heart, the system that initiates puberty, and the proteins that tell the cell when to divide. Moreover, biochemical components are known that can act as gears and flexible chains, and feedback mechanisms (which are necessary to regulate a watch) are common in biochemistry. Hume's criticism of the design argument that asserts a fundamental difference between mechanical systems and living systems is out of date, destroyed by the advance of science which has discovered the machinery of life. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p218.]

  • Sober continues his analysis of Hume: I now turn to Hume's second criticism of the design argument, which is no more successful than the first. . . . [Hume] contends that if we are to have good reason to think that the organisms in our world are the products of intelligent design, then we must have looked at lots of other worlds and observed intelligent designers producing organisms there.13 [Sober, E. (1993) Philosophy of Biology, Westview Press, Boulder, Co, p. 35.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p218, 219.]

  • Although Hume's objection to the inductive argument might have been valid in his day, it has been destroyed by the advance of science. Modern biochemistry routinely designs biochemical systems, which are now known to be the basis of life. Therefore we do have experience in observing the intelligent design of components of life. There have probably been tens of thousands of experiments in which new biochemical systems were put together, and in the future there will be many, many more. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p219.]

  • The fatal problems with the analogy are not difficult to see. It was amusingly skewered by Robert Shapiro, a professor of chemistry at New York University, in his book Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Origin of life, which was published seven years before Sober s book.15 The fact that a distinguished philosopher overlooks simple logical problems that are easily seen by a chemist suggests that a sabbatical visit to a biochemistry laboratory might be in order. [Shapiro, R. (1986) Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. Summit Books, New York, pp. 179-180.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p221.]

  • The argument has been echoed by prominent scientists and philosophers, but it is particularly well presented by Kennet Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University : Another way to respond to the theory of intelligent design is to carefully examine complex biological systems for errors that no intelligent designer would have committed. Because intelligent design works from a clean, sheet of paper, it should produce organisms that have been optimally designed for the tasks they perform. Conversely, because evolution is confined to modifying existing structures, it should not necessarily perfection. Which is it? The eye, that supposed paragon of intelligent design, offers an answer. We have already sung the virtues of this extraordinary organ, but we have not considered specific aspects of its design, such as the neural wiring of its light-sensing units. These photoreceptor cells, located in the retina, pass impulses to a series of interconnecting cells that eventually pass information to the cells of the optic nerve, which leads to the brain. An intelligent designer, working with the components of this wiring, would choose the orientation that produces the highest degree of visual quality. No one, for example, would suggest that the neural connections should be placed in front of the photoreceptor cells—thus blocking the light from reaching them—rather than behind the retina. Incredibly, this is exactly how the human retina is constructed... A more serious flaw occurs because the neural wiring must poke directly through the wall of the retina to carry the nerve impulses produced by photoreceptor cells to the brain. The result is a blind spot in the retina—a region where thousands of impulse-carrying cells have pushed the sensory cells aside.... None of this should be taken to suggest that the eye functions poorly. It is a superb visual instrument that serves us exceedingly well... The key to the intelligent design theory ... is not whether an organ or system works well but whether its basic structural plan is the obvious product of design. The structural plan of the eye is not.16 [Miller, K. R. (1994) «Life's Grand Design,» Technology Review February/ March, pp. 29-30.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p222, 223.]

  • Miller elegantly expresses a basic confusion; the key to intelligent-design theory is not whether a «basic structural plan is the obvious product of design.» The conclusion of intelligent design for physically interacting systems rests on the observation of highly specified, irreducible complexity—the ordering of separate, well-fitted components to achieve a function that is beyond any of the components themselves. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p223.]

  • The most basic problem is that the argument demands perfection at all. Clearly, designers who have the ability to make better designs do not necessarily do so. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p223.]

  • The argument from imperfection overlooks the possibility that the designer might have multiple motives, with engineering excellence oftentimes relegated to a secondary role. Most people throughout history have thought that life was designed despite sickness, death, and other obvious imperfections. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p223.]

  • In discussing why aliens on other planets might build artificial structures that we could observe from earth, the physicist Freeman Dyson wrote: I do not need to discuss questions of motivation, who would want to do these things or why. Why does the human species explode hydrogen bombs or send rockets to the moon? It is difficult to say exactly why.17 [Dyson, J. F. (1966) «The Search for Extraterrestrial Technology» in Perspectives in Modem Physics, ed. R. E. Marshak, John Wiley and Sons, New York, pp. 643-644.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p224.]

  • When considering whether aliens would try to seed other planets with life, Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel wrote: The psychology of extraterrestrial societies is no better understood than terrestrial psychology. It is entirely possible that extraterrestrial societies might infect other planets for quite different reasons than those we have suggested.18 [Crick, F. H. C., and Orgel, L. E. (1973) «Directed Panspermia,» Icarus, 19, 344.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p224.]

  • In their writings, these authors correctly concluded that design could be detected in the absence of information about the designer's motives. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p224.]

  • The next problem is that proponents of the argument from imperfection frequently use their psychological evaluation of the designer as positive evidence for undirected evolution. The reasoning can be written as a syllogism: 1. A designer would have made the vertebrate eye without a blind spot. 2. The vertebrate eye has a blind spot. 3. Therefore Darwinian evolution produced the eye. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p224.]

  • The scientific literature contains no evidence that natural selection working on mutation can produce either an eye with a blind spot, an eye without a blind spot, an eyelid, a lens, a retina, rhodopsin, or retinal. The debater has reached his conclusion in favor of Darwinism based solely on an emotional feeling of the way things ought to be. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p224.]

  • This argument is unconvincing for three reasons. First, because we have not yet discovered a use for a structure does not mean that no use exists. The tonsils were once considered to be useless organs, but an important function in immunity has been discovered for them. (...) This point also applies on the molecular scale (...) The point here is that Miller's assertion rests on assumptions only. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p226.]

  • The second reason why Miller's argument fails to persuade is that even if pseudogenes have no function, evolution has «explained» nothing about how pseudogenes arose. In order to make even a pseudo-copy of a gene, a dozen sophisticated proteins are required: to pry apart the two DNA strands, to align the copying machinery at the right place, to stitch the nucleotides together into a string, to insert the pseudocopy back into the DNA, and much more. In his article Miller has not told us how any of these functions might have arisen in a Darwinian step-by-step process, nor has he pointed to articles in the scientific literature where we can find the information. He can't do that, because the information is nowhere to be found. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p226.]

  • Futuyma never explains how a real pelvis or eye developed in the first place, so as to be able to give rise to a vestigial organ later on, yet both the functioning organ and the vestigial organ require explanation. I do not purport to understand everything about design or evolution—far from it; I just cannot ignore the evidence for design. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p226.]

  • Additionally, suppose the designer placed into the cell some other systems for which, we cannot adduce enough evidence to conclude design. The cell containing the designed systems then was left on autopilot to reproduce, mutate, eat and be eaten, bump against rocks, and suffer all the vagaries of life on earth. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p228.]

  • The production of some biological improvements by mutation and natural selection—by evolution—is quite compatible with intelligent design theory. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p228.]

  • Design theory has nothing to say about a biochemical or biological system unless all the components of the system are known and it is demonstrated that the system is composed of several interacting parts. Intelligent-design theory can coexist quite peacefully with the panda's thumb. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p229.]

  • Similarly, evolutionary biologists have recognized that a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (the spread of «neutral,» nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), meiotic drive (the preferential selection during sex cell production of one of the two copies of a gene inherited from an organism's parents), transposition (the transfer of a gene between widely separated species by nonsexual means), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems may have been designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p229, 230.]

  • The discovery of design expands the number of factors that must be considered by science when trying to explain life. What will be the effect of the awareness of intelligent design on different branches of science? Biologists who are working at the cellular level or above can continue their research without paying much attention to design, because above the cellular level organisms are black boxes, and design is difficult to prove. So those who labor in the fields of paleontology, comparative anatomy, population genetics, and biogeography should not invoke design until the molecular sciences show that design has an effect at those higher levels. Of course, the possibility of design should cause researchers in biology to hesitate before claiming that a particular biological feature has been produced substantially by another mechanism, such as natural selection or transposition. Instead, detailed models should be produced to justify the assertion that a given mechanism produced a given biological feature. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p230.]

  • For those who work at the molecular level, the challenge will be to rigorously determine which systems were designed and which might have arisen by other mechanisms. To reach a conclusion of design will require the identification of the components of an interacting molecular system and the roles they play, as well as a determination that the system is not a composite of several separable systems. To reach a strong presumption of nondesign will require the demonstration that a system is not irreducibly complex or does not have much specificity between its components. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p230.]

Chapter 11: Science, Philosophy, Religion

  • The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell—to investigate life at the molecular level—is a loud, clear, piercing cry of «design!» The result is so unambiguous and so significant that it must be ranked as one of the greatest achievements in the history of science. The discovery rivals those of Newton and Einstein, Lavoisier and SchrÖdinger, Pasteur, and Darwin. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p233.]

  • Why does the scientific community not greedily embrace its startling discovery? Why is the observation of design handled with intellectual gloves? The dilemma is that while one side of the elephant is labeled intelligent design, the other side might be labeled God. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p233.]

  • The purpose of science is to explain the physical world—a very serious enterprise. However, other academic disciplines (principally philosophy and theology) also are in the business of explaining parts of the world. Although most of the time these disciplines stay out of each other's way, sometimes they conflict. When that happens some dedicated people put their discipline ahead of the goal it is supposed to serve. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p234.]

  • A good example of disciplinary chauvinism can be seen in Robert Shapiro's fine book, Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. After presenting a very readable, very devastating critique of scientific studies on the origin of life, Shapiro proclaims his steadfast loyalty—not to the goal of «explaining the physical world,» but to science: Some future day may yet arrive when all reasonable chemical experiments run to discover a probable origin for life have failed unequivocally. Further, new geological evidence may indicate a sudden appearance of life on the earth. Finally, we may have explored the universe and found no trace of life, or process leading to life, elsewhere. In such a case, some scientists might choose to turn to religion for an answer. Others, however, myself included, would attempt to sort out the surviving less probable scientific explanations in the hope of selecting one that was still more likely than the remainder.1 [Shapiro, R. (1986) Origins: A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth, Summit Books, New York, p. 130.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p234.]

  • Although many scientists and theologians thought that Darwinian evolution could be reconciled rather easily with the basic beliefs of most religions, publicity always focuses on conflict. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p235.]

  • Dickerson's essay makes a useful springboard for considering how the theory of intelligent design fits into science: Science, fundamentally, is a game. It is a game with one overriding and defining rule: Rule No. 1: Let us see how far and to what extent we can explain the behavior of the physical and material universe in terms of purely physical and material causes, without invoking the supernatural. Operational science takes no position about the existence or nonexistence of the supernatural; it only requires that this factor is not to be invoked in scientific explanations. Calling down special-purpose miracles as explanations constitutes a form of intellectual «cheating.» A chess player is perfectly capable of removing his opponent's King physically from the board and smashing it in the midst of a tournament. But this would not make him a chess champion, because the rules had not been followed. A runner may be tempted to take a short-cut across the infield of an oval track in order to cross the finish line ahead of his faster colleague. But he refrains from doing so, as this would not constitute «winning» under the rules of the sport.2 [Dickerson's essay can be found in Journal of Molecular Evolution, 34, 277 (1992), and Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith, 44, 137-138 (1992).] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p238 ,239.]

  • In his essay, then, Dickerson does not say scientific evidence has shown that the supernatural has never affected nature (for those concerned about the definition of supernatural, substitute «higher intelligence»). Rather, he argues that in principle, science should not invoke it. The clear implication is that it should not be invoked whether it is true or not. It is relevant to our evaluation of his argument that Dickerson is a member of the American Scientific Affiliation, so he believes in God. He has no a priori reason to think that nothing beyond nature exists, but he thinks it is not good science to offer the supernatural as an explanation for a natural event. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p239.]

  • Ken Miller, whose argument from imperfection I analyzed in the last chapter, is like myself a Roman Catholic, and he makes the point in public talks that belief in evolution is quite compatible with his religious views. I agree with him that they are compatible.4 The compatibility or lack of compatibility, however, is irrelevant to the scientific question of whether Darwinian evolution of biochemical systems is true. [Of course, whether «evolution» and «religion» are compatible depends on your definitions of both. If one takes the position that evolution not only occurred solely by uninterrupted natural law, but that the process is «purposeless» and «unforeseen» in a metaphysical sense, then that does place «evolution» on a collision course with many religious denominations. Phillip Johnson has done an admirable job of pointing out the many ways in which the word evolution is used, and how shifting definitions can confuse public discussion of the issue. Johnson, P. E. (1991) Darwin on Trial, Regnery Gateway, Washington, DC.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p239.]

  • It is important to note that Dickerson's argument is not itself a scientific one—it was not discovered by an experiment in a laboratory; it is not the result of mixing chemicals in a test tube; it is not a testable hypothesis. Rather, the argument is philosophy. It may be good philosophy, or it may not. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p239.]

  • The final point I wish to make about Richard Dickerson's argument is that although he certainly didn't intend it, it is a prescription for timidity. It tries to restrict science to more of the same, disallowing a fundamentally different explanation. It tries to place reality in a tidy box, but the universe will not be placed in a box. The origin of the universe and the development of life are the physical underpinnings that resulted in a worldful of conscious agents. There is no a priori reason to think that those bedrock events are to be explained in the same way as other physical events. Science is not a game, and scientists should follow the physical evidence wherever it leads, with no artificial restrictions. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p243.]

  • The prominent physicist A.S. Eddington probably spoke for many in voicing his utter disgust with such an idea: "Philosophically, the notion of an abrupt beginning to the present order of Nature is repugnant to me, as I think it must be to most; and even those who would welcome a proof of the intervention of a Creator will probably consider that a single winding-up at some remote epoch is not really the kind of relation between God and his world that brings satisfaction to the mind." [The reaction of science to the Big Bang hypothesis, including Eddington's and other prominent physicists, is recounted in Jaki, S. (1980) Cosmos and Creator, Regnery Gateway, Chicago.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p244.]

  • Nonetheless, despite its religious implications, the Big Bang was a scientific theory that flowed naturally from observational data, not from holy writings or transcendental visions. Most physicists adopted the Big Bang theory and set their research programs accordingly. A few, like Einstein before them, didn't like the extra-scientific implications of the theory and labored to develop alternatives. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p244.]

  • The success of the Big Bang model had nothing to do with its religious implications. It seemed to agree with the Judaeo-Christian dogma of a beginning to the universe; it seemed to disagree with other religions that believed the universe to be eternal. But the theory justified itself by reference to observational data—the expansion of the universe— and not by invoking sacred texts or the mystical experiences of holy men. The model came straight from the observational evidence; it was not fit to a Procrustean bed of religious dogma. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p245, 246.]

  • It is interesting (though scientifically irrelevant) that the notion of a cycling universe would be compatible with many religions, including those of the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, and Indians.8 [Jaki, S. (1986) Science and Creation, Scottish Academic Press, Edinburgh.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p246.]

  • Francis Crick also thinks that life on earth may have begun when aliens from another planet sent a rocket ship containing spores to seed the earth. This is no idle thought; Crick first proposed it with chemist Leslie Orgel in 1973 in an article entitled «Directed Panspermia» in a professional science journal called Icarus. A decade later Crick wrote a book, Life Itself, reiterating the theory; in a 1992 interview in Scientific American on the eve of the publication of his latest book, Crick reaffirmed that he thinks the theory is reasonable. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p248.]

  • Richard Dawkins has written that anyone who denies evolution is either «ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked—but I'd rather not consider that.)» [Dawkins, R. (1989) New York Times, April 9, 1989, sec. 7, p. 34.]
    [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p250.]

  • John Maddox, the editor of Nature, has written in his journal that «it may not be long before the practice of religion must be regarded as anti-science.» [Maddox, J. (1994) «Defending Science Against Anti-Science,» Nature, 368, 185.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p250.]

  • In his recent book Darwin's Dangerous Idea, philosopher Daniel Dennett compares religious believers—90 percent of the population—to wild animals who may have to be caged, and he says that parents should be prevented (presumably by coercion) from misinforming their children about the truth of evolution, which is so evident to him. [Dennett, D. (1995) Darwin's Dangerous Idea, Simon & Schuster, New York, pp. 515-516.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p250.]

  • The scientific community contains many excellent scientists who think that there is something beyond nature, and many excellent scientists who do not. How then will science «officially» treat the question of the identity of the designer? Will biochemistry textbooks have to be written with explicit statements that «God did it»? No. The question of the identity of the designer will simply be ignored by science. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p251.]

  • The history of science is replete with examples of basic-but-difficult questions being put on the back burner. For example, Newton declined to explain what caused gravity, Darwin offered no explanation for the origin of vision or life, Maxwell refused to specify a medium for light waves once the ether was debunked, and cosmologists in general have ignored the question of what caused the Big Bang. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p251.]

  • The philosophical argument (made by some theists) that science should avoid theories which smack of the supernatural is an artificial restriction on science. Their fear that supernatural explanations would overwhelm science is unfounded. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p251.]

Afterword: Ten Years Later

  • When I wrote that sentence near the conclusion of Darwin's Black Box ten years ago, I had no inkling of how very unsettling some people would find the concept of intelligent design1 (ID). [What exactly is «intelligent design? In an article in 2001 in the philosophy of science journal, Biology and Philosophy, I made an important distinction: «By [intelligent designl someone might mean that the laws of nature themselves are designed to produce life and the complex systems that undergird it. Without commenting on the merits of the position, let me just say that that is not the meaning I assign to the phrase. By «intelligent design» (ID) I mean to imply design beyond the laws of nature. That is, taking the laws of nature as given, are there other reasons for concluding that life and its component systems have been intentionally arranged, just as there are reasons beyond the laws of nature for concluding a mousetrap was designed? [Unless stated otherwise] whenever I refer to ID I mean this stronger sense of design-beyond-laws.»] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p255.]

  • Ten years ago I used the phrase «irreducible complexity»2 (IС) to shine a spotlight on a large and then-substantially-unappreciated problem for Darwinian evolution—like a mousetrap, almost all of the elegant molecular machinery of the cell needs multiple parts to work. Because of the need for many parts, it is extraordinarily difficult to rigorously envision how systems such as the cilium, flagellum, or blood clotting cascade could have arisen from simpler systems by the «numerous, successive, slight modifications» imagined by Charles Darwin. [The term «irreducible complexity» occurred to me independently. However, I've since learned that the phrase was used earlier in Templets and the Explanation of Complex Patterns (Cambridge University Press, 1986) by Case Western Reserve University biologist Michael J. Katz. He appeared to have in mind the same sorts of phenomena as I did.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p257.]

  • In a review of Darwin's Black Box for the MIT-published Boston Review, University of Rochester evolutionary biologist Allen Orr rejected out of hand the maybe-a-toothpick-turned-into-a-mousetrap reasoning of Kenneth Miller: [W]e might think that some of the parts of an irreducibly complex system evolved step by step for some other purpose and were then recruited wholesale to a new function. But this is also unlikely. You may as well hope that half your car's transmission will suddenly help out in the airbag department. Such things might happen very, very rarely, but they surely do not offer a general solution to irreducible complexity.14 [Orr, H. A. (1996), «Darwin v. Intelligent Design (Again).» Boston Review, Dec/Jan.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p262.]

  • Is the argument simply, as some have caricatured it, that we don't know how Darwinism accounts for biological complexity; and so we naively jump to the conclusion of design? Is it just an «argument from ignorance»?18 Of course not. (...) design is positively apprehended in the purposeful arrangement of parts. Looked at this way, irreducibly complex systems such as mousetraps and flagella serve both as negative arguments against gradualistic explanations like Darwin's and as positive arguments for design. The negative argument is that such interactive systems resist explanation by the tiny steps that a Darwinian path would be expected to take. The positive argument is that their parts appear arranged to serve a purpose, which is exactly how we detect design. [Blackstone N. W (1997), «Argumentum ad Ignorantium,» Quarterly Review Biology 72:445-447.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p263, 264.]

  • Rather, says Dawkins, it's what we conclude when we get in touch with our inner engineer: We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose, such as flying, swimming, seeing ... It is not necessary to suppose that the design of a body or organ is the best that an engineer could conceive of. . . . But any engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object. [Dawkins R. (1986). The Blind Watchmaker, Norton, New York, p. 21.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p264.]

  • Dawkins doesn't just grudgingly acknowledge some faint impression of design in life; he insists that the appearance of design, which he ascribes to natural selection, is overpowering: «Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.»20 [Dawkins R. (1986). The Blind Watchmaker, Norton, New York, p. 21.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p264.]

  • Here, then, is the argument for design in a nutshell: (1) We infer design whenever parts appear arranged to accomplish a function. (2) The strength of the inference is quantitative and depends on the evidence; the more parts, and the more intricate and sophisticated the function, the stronger is our conclusion of design. With enough evidence, our confidence in design can approach certitude. If while crossing a heath we stumble across a watch (let alone a chronometer), no one would doubt—as Paley rightly said—that the watch was designed; we would be as certain about that as about anything in nature. (3) Aspects of life overpower us with the appearance of design. (4) Since we have no other convincing explanation for that strong appearance of design, Darwinian pretensions notwithstanding, then we are rationally justified in concluding that parts of life were indeed purposely designed by an intelligent agent. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p265.]

  • A crucial, often-overlooked point is that the overwhelming appearance of design strongly affects the burden of proof: in the presence of manifest design, the onus of proof is on the one who denies the plain evidence of his eyes. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p265.]

  • Without strong, convincing evidence to show that Darwin can do the trick, the public is quite rational to embrace design.21 [Of course other factors besides the quality of the evidence, such as social pressure, can affect a person's judgment. In the scientific and academic communities as a whole there is strong social pressure to dismiss design explanations for life out of hand. The social situation is quite different for the general public.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p266.]

  • Darwinian theory has remained dead in the water. The quickest way to illustrate the point is with the very title of a recent paper on the cilium: «Speculations on the evolution of 9+2 organelles and the role of central pair microtubules.» [emphasis added, both here and below] In other words, more interesting conjecture, more beguiling surmise, which have never been in short supply in Darwinian circles. The abstract of the paper shows the pivotal role of imagination in the story: [Rlecent advances . . . suggest that these organelles may have served multiple roles in early eukaryotic cells... we speculate that protocilia were the primary determinants of cell polarity and directed motility in early eukaryotes ... we believe that addition of an asymmetric central apparatus ... provided refined directional control. . . . This paper presents hypothesized steps in this evolutionary process, and examples to support these hypotheses.24 [Mitchell D. R. (2004), «Speculations on the Evolution of 9+2 Organelles and the Role of Central Pair Microtubules.» Biol. Cell, 96:691-696.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p267.]

  • There is no publication in the scientific literature—in prestigious journals, specialty journals, or books—that describes how molecular evolution of any real, complex, biochemical system either did occur or even might have occurred. There are assertions that such evolution occurred, but absolutely none are supported by pertinent experiments or calculations. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p270.]

  • In his review of Darwin's Black Box shortly after its publication in 1996 University of Chicago microbiologist James Shapiro declared, «There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.»33 Ten years later, nothing has changed. Call them wishful speculations or call them plausible scenarios—both just mean a lack of real answers. [Shapiro, J. (1996), «In the Details . . . What?» National Review, Sept. 16, 62-65. Shapiro's judgment is seconded by Colorado State University emeritus professor of biochemistry Franklin Harold in his book The Way of the Cell (Oxford, 2001): «. . .we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations.»] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p271.]

  • The conclusion of intelligent design is strengthened by each new example of elegant, complex molecular machinery or system that science discovers at the foundation of life. In 1996 that elegance already could be clearly seen, and in the past ten years it has greatly increased. There is no reason to expect it to level off any time soon. [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p271.]

  • A recent news article in the journal Nature reported on an invitation-only meeting where up-and-coming students could rub elbows with Nobel prize winning scientists. For this year's meeting the organizing committee: ". . . invited scientific academies and other agencies around the world to open competitions for young scientists to attend, then whittled down a list of nearly 10,000 applicants. The final 2005 list of 720 invitees represented a new profile of participant: academically excellent, familiar with societal impacts of their research and fluent in English. They are generally under thirty, but the majority are now Ph.D. students or postdocs." But the students asked surprising questions: "«It is curious to see the questions that students from different cultures ask,» [Günter Blobel (medicine, 1999)] remarked after a discussion on evolutionary biology led by Christian de Duve (medicine, 1974). He was taken aback to find some students expressing so much interest in the «creative guiding hand» of intelligent design."34 [Abbott A. (2005), «Nobel laureates: Close encounters,» Nature 436:170-171.] [Michael J. Behe: Darwin's Black Box, The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, Free Press, New York 2006, p272.]

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