Customer Review

13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disingenuous, but thought-provoking, 11 Oct. 2011
This review is from: Darwin's Black Box (Paperback)
Gosh, what a funny old book. Subtitled 'The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution', Behe's work starts as an intelligent dig at some apparent holes in the Darwinist literature and ends as a not-quite-overt Creationist tract.

Behe is a biochemist, and also, as we learn 15 pages from the book's close, a Roman Catholic. His argument is a compelling one: that Darwinists focus almost exclusively on gross anatomy, yet the kinds of changes they invoke on the road to, say, the human eye, are never elucidated at the detailed molecular level. This, says Behe, is a gigantic con trick since the smallest phenotypic effect can require intricate and massive changes at the level of biochemistry and hence would not be attainable by natural selection.

It's a good idea, and somewhat convincing in the context of Behe's examples. His argument centres on 'irreducible complexity', which suggests that there are systems in biology that simply could not have evolved gradually, and he eventually (on page 193) comes clean and states that the systems he's described (cilia, blood clotting, etc.) were 'clearly' designed by an intelligent being.

The examples Behe considers are deliberately complex, yet his assertion that such systems are irreducibly complex is undermined by his own attack on the 'argument from personal incredulity' - just because he considers such system irreducible doesn't necessarily mean that they are so. His mousetrap example is particularly unconvincing, although we shouldn't let this obscure his basic point, which is that if natural selection can't explain an irreducibly complex system, we must, on Darwin's own admission, discard it as a natural philosophy.

Behe certainly has some interesting things to say about questioning our beliefs and why we hold such beliefs in the first place, but ultimately his message will stand or fall on details that we laymen must take on trust. His suggestion that science must explain the actual detailed route by which any evolutionary step took place seems ill-founded, and it all goes a bit pear-shaped towards the end, when he reveals his Creationist agenda.

For all that, it's a thought-provoking read.
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