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Darwin's Black Box: Biochemical Challenge to Evolution [Hardcover]

Michael J. Behe
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Nov 1996
Virtually all serious scientists accept the truth of Darwin's theory of evolution. While the fight for its acceptance has been a long and difficult one, after a century of struggle among the cognoscenti the battle is over. Biologists are now confident that their remaining questions, such as how life on Earth began, or how the Cambrian explosion could have produced so many new species in such a short time, will be found to have Darwinian answers. They, like most of the rest of us, accept Darwin's theory to be true.But should we? What would happen if we found something that radically challenged the now-accepted wisdom? In "Darwin's Black Box", Michael Behe argues that evidence of evolution's limits has been right under our noses -- but it is so small that we have only recently been able to see it. The field of biochemistry, begun when Watson and Crick discovered the double-helical shape of DNA, has unlocked the secrets of the cell. There, biochemists have unexpectedly discovered a world of Lilliputian complexity. As Behe engagingly demonstrates, using the examples of vision, bloodclotting, cellular transport, and more, the biochemical world comprises an arsenal of chemical machines, made up of finely calibrated, interdependent parts. For Darwinian evolution to be true, there must have been a series of mutations, each of which produced its own working machine, that led to the complexity we can now see. The more complex and interdependent each machine's parts are shown to be, the harder it is to envision Darwin's gradualistic paths, Behe surveys the professional science literature and shows that it is completely silent on the subject, stymied by the elegance of the foundation of life. Could it be that there is some greater force at work?Michael Behe is not a creationist. He believes in the scientific method, and he does not look to religious dogma for answers to these questions. But he argues persuasively that biochemical machines must have been designed -- either by God, or by some other higher intelligence. For decades science has been frustrated, trying to reconcile the astonishing discoveries of modern biochemistry to a nineteenth-century theory that cannot accommodate them. With the publication of "Darwin's Black Box", it is time for scientists to allow themselves to consider exciting new possibilities, and for the rest of us to watch closely.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 16 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd (4 Nov 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684827549
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684827544
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 15.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,205,202 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon 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.


Peter Van InwagenProfessor of Philosophy, Notre Dame UniversityThis book will do much to correct the common misapprehension that anyone who questions the Darwinian theory of evolution must be a "young earth creationist" whose motivation is to preserve the literal truth of the stories told in the first three books of Genesis against the encroachments of science and reason. If Darwinians respond to this important book by ignoring it, misrepresenting it, or ridiculing it, that will be evidence in favor of the widespread suspicion that Darwinism today functions more as an ideology than as a scientific theory. If they can successfully answer Behe's arguments, that will be important evidence in favor of Darwinism.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Open the box 7 Jan 2008
By djb
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The basic argument is that evolution by a gradual series of random mutations cannot account for the development of highly complex ,resolved and irreducible bio-chemical networks.
It does not do justice to this book to portray this debate as religion v science.
The fact is that we struggle to explain the evolution of life on Earth from pre-biotic chemicals;or the evolution of DNA and its sophisticated interaction with proteins.
It is no bad thing to remain sceptical of whether nineteenth and early twentieth century scientific theory is really adequate to fully explain the outstanding complexity or the brilliantly conceived and engineered solutions of nature.
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38 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A biochemist responds to Behe's challenge 23 Mar 1999
By A Customer
As a biochemist interested in DNA structures and the origins of complex systems, I was delighted to hear that someone in my area of research had written a book on this subject. Behe does a good job of trying to convey the problem. If anything, molecular systems are even MORE complex than detailed in his well written and wonder-filled descriptions. However, I was surprised and frustrated to find the use of poor logic and factual errors throughout the book. For example, Behe can't find articles that he LIKES about the molecular evolution of flagella, so he then proceeds to claim that these articles simply don't exist. There are entire textbooks with titles like "Molecular Evolution" (search Amazon.com and see for yourself), and yet Behe insists that nothing has been written on the subject, and concludes that the reason for this is because no one has been able to find any detailed evidence for molecular evolution.
One of the examples cited of "irreducible complexity" is the bacterial flagellum. Behe claims that 40 proteins are necessary for a fully functional flagellum. Whilst this is true for E.coli, flagella in many bacteria are made from fewer proteins - for example, in the bacterium that causes syphilis (Treponema pallidum), there are a total of 38 flagellar proteins; in the bacterium that causes lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), there are only 35 flagellar proteins; finally, in a bacteria associated with ulcers (Helicobacter pylori) there are only 33 proteins necessary to form complete, fully functional flagella. It is likely that as new bacterial genomes continue to be sequenced (at the rate of about one a month!), organisms will be found which require even fewer genes to make a completely functional flagella.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars He's no Einstein... 23 Dec 1996
By A Customer
It's ironic that some reviewers continually lambast the others for assuming that Darwin was infallible. Of course he wasn't, his model was excellent based upon his knowledge at the time, but the need for revision is clear. The reason why Behe's work is receiving such critical comments is because he DOESN'T offer a scientific, testable hypothesis. Einstein revised Newton's classical framework, and this theory was accepted rapidly despite its revolutionary nature, because it was predictive and testable. Behe's pseudo-"God of the Gaps" hypothesis is neither, and some of the "facts" he presents, aren't. If something that was irreducibly complex is broken down, then Behe can claim, "A HA! These new parts are irreducibly complex" ad infinitum. Sigh.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Christian Science book. 2 July 1999
By A Customer
All the ones who claim Behe's right and Darwin isn't are mainly Christian without too much understanding of general science. Also, the ones stating that there's a Church of Darwin, well, they're making a Church out of this guy too. I want to remind you how Melikovsky fooled (and still fools) many people. The problem with this kind of people is that once they find something they can't understand (They don't even think on other people) the call the God of the Gaps for it. Behe should learn the experience of physicists before writting: The nucleus of the atom, which is positively charged, is surrounded by a negatively charge electron cloud. acording to electromagneticism, the electron should give over electromagnetic waves, thus loosing energy and falling inward towards the nucleus, resulting on the collapse of the atom. But we aren't seeing that. Those that mean Electromagneticism, a soo called classic theory) is wrong? Surely God is working on here, don't you think? The answer to this question was the discovery of Quantum Physics, which based on Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle, explains why electrons don't fall inward the nucleus. Behe should learn this humble lection before stating wathever he has to state. God might exist, but putting him before everything on this Universe isn't wise enough.
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27 of 43 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible science 4 Feb 1999
By A Customer
(1) The author shows little knowledge of or interest in the evolutionary literature. How is it possible to refute a theory without knowing the evidence and arguments on which it is based?
(2) The "irriducible complexity" argument is just not new. The arguments in the book had been refuted before the book was published by authors such as Darwin, Muller, Cavalier-Smith, etc, etc. This applies to both the general argument and to many of the specific examples given. See (1) above.
(3) The author professes to accept many of the central findings of evolutionary biology, e.g. that plants and animals share the same common ancestor. But these facts pose obvious and profound difficulties for his arguments. His attempt to deal with these difficulties is perfunctory and obviously flawed.
(4) The author is a professional scientist. But he has made no attempt to convince his colleagues of these ideas. Not one peer reviewed paper on irriducible complexity or intelligent design. If he had sought the opinion of his colleagues he would have had to confront problems (1) (2) and (3) and this awful book would not have been published!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars .........
These are excellent- just what I wanted!

Good delivery time.

NO QUARMS whatsoever!!!

I would buy from these again !
Published 6 months ago by Mark Nixon
1.0 out of 5 stars Out-dated falsehoods.
Short and simple: Behe is wrong. He knows that he is wrong. A lot of very clever people have spent a lot of time explaining in a lot of detail why he is wrong. Read more
Published on 27 Feb 2011 by Kiteman
2.0 out of 5 stars Shows how improbable Evolution is
This book was useful to me as I can now use the phrases, "irreducible complexity" and, "specified complexity" in an argument. Read more
Published on 23 May 2009 by Mr. S. A. Blake
1.0 out of 5 stars If you are a creationist looking for backup you'll love it...
...but if not then it's just plain nonsense. It's reasonably well written, complex in parts but nonsense all the same. Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2007 by Splossy
1.0 out of 5 stars A real eye opener...
At first after reading this I was annoyed that I spent good money on it. However, on reflection, I'm glad I read this - it has really enlightened me as to just how vacuous the ID... Read more
Published on 25 July 2007 by Sir Barnabas
4.0 out of 5 stars Irreducible complexity?
Irreducible complexity is the central idea of the book. for a system to evolve it needs to be functional every step of the way. Read more
Published on 13 April 2007 by C. J. Boorman
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's a book to make you think
Don't be put off by the technical language used in this book. It's worth persevering, since the fundamental basis of the challenge that Behe raises against the old and established... Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2006 by Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome book!
Consider - a bird needs a tooth to break a shell open. I saw Attenborough on TV say the tooth developed by natural selection - the bird with the tooth became dominant. Read more
Published on 8 Oct 2006 by rukaluka
5.0 out of 5 stars A beginning of reason
Already a classic, and for good reason. Behe is no creationist or a ranting religious biggot. He is a good scientist with excellent credentials, who presents the scientific facts... Read more
Published on 3 Aug 2006 by Brad
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant!
Dont be put off by other peoples bad reviews. Most people believe what they want to believe even if confonted with evidence to the contrary. Read more
Published on 14 Mar 2006 by N. J. Stevenson
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