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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
This review is from: Darwin's Black Box: Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (Hardcover)
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 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. So this "irreducible complex" of 40 proteins has shrunk to 33 proteins, in the past 2 years of research! Behe's argument is that EVERY ONE of the 40 proteins are necessary. Obviously 7 of those 40 aren't completely necessary. Maybe it's only 30 or perhaps even 20 proteins that are absolutely necessary? It's hard to say, but it is very dangerous to make such dogmatic statements as "this system is irreducibly complex", especially when the system is made up of proteins that have other normal functions in the cell, apart from flagella - such as the GTPase proteins. For a more fair treatment of the subject of flagella (and bacteria and molecular evolution in general), I can happily recommend reading "The Outer Reaches of Life", by John Postgate (also available through, which is an excellent treatise about bacteria written for the "non-scientific reader".
Of course there is a need to explain the origins of biochemical complexity. But declaring "intelligent design by a miracle" to be this method is neither scientific nor helpful. I guess my advice would be similar to that of Huxley about Darwin's Origin of the Species - please read Behe's book and decide for yourself!
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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 22 Jun 2008 12:40:25 BDT
P. Carline says:
If a 'miracle' is something that cannot be explained by accepted scientific laws, then the world is full of miracles! Current (materialist-mechanist-reductionist) science cannot explain life - it merely asserts that it MUST have originated by chance from inorganic materials, purely because of its total commitment to materialism. But there's no evidence it can happen, or could have happened. In fact, it would be a miracle if it did. So why is it not 'unscientific' to claim that it did? An honest science would accept that, in all our experience and experiments, life can only come from life.
Consciousness is another 'miracle' - inexplicable by materialist science. Modern science is full of unsustainable assertions and unfounded claims about how life and living things, and their complex behaviours, came into being. In fact, much of today's science is pseudo-science - including just about everything Richard Dawkins has written.
When people look back at this time from a position of real knowledge, they will describe it as the "age of superstition", when so-called scientists believed a lot of fairy-stories about the nature of reality, including stories about a magical little genie who could work wonders - the gene.
Anyone who has taken the trouble to look into what quantum physics says about the nature of reality knows that the whole of neo-Darwinism is founded on a mirage, and that the 'gene genie' is merely a concept - a vain attempt to conjure something solid and material out of the reality of the swirling fields of energy which by themselves cannot explain the origin and evolution of form. It's pseudo-science to claim that the genome controls form. It's clutching at the straws of an imagined materialism. Why? Because, as American geneticist Richard Lewontin revealingly wrote:
"We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs; in spite of its failure to fulfil many of its extravagant promises of life and health; in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated 'just-so' stories; because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations ...
Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door".

In reply to an earlier post on 23 Jan 2009 15:57:01 GMT
R. Davies says:
P Carline - you misunderstand the difference between "cannot" and "isn't yet". The origin of life (abiogenesis) isn't yet explained by science. That does not in anyway mean it cannot be. In fact, a number of hypotheses exist that have not been disproved. The fact that any evidence for such a happening would be minimal, and would then have to survive billions of years of plate tectonics to be discovered by modern science is why there are only hypotheses and no current theories.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Sep 2009 14:03:13 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Sep 2009 14:03:43 BDT
Hamster says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on 25 Oct 2010 21:56:59 BDT
Mr. T Holton says:
It would have been helpful if you had provided citations for your comments.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Dec 2011 22:30:57 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Dec 2011 22:35:34 GMT
Ailsa says:
There's rather more to it than that. Most of the ideas proposed for chemical evolution are pretty flimsy - as in lacking in evidence. The thermodynamics of chemical evolution is on fairly shaky ground. We're largely leaving Darwin's warm little pond behind because it just doesn't work thermodynamically (or chemically). So we're onto hydrothermal vents and so on. But even there, there are many problems. We are still learning how to make the various nucleotides used in DNA using the intelligence of experienced scientists. The manufacture of pyrimidine was achieved recently, after many failed attempts, for example, but only by using some very clever chemistry jiggery-pokery - simply because the obvious method of production simply doesn't work. There is a difference between "cannot" and "isn't yet", admittedly, but there is also the possibility of "may never happen" - not just because we can't find the evidence yet (as in Higgs boson, although the latest news sounds as though we may be close), but because in some cases, the evidence doesn't exist and never did. Remember that that is also possible...
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