A scientific theory, besides being readily testable, should explain the natural environment and predict future scientific discovery. As Darwin’s Black Box introduces more recent developments in biochemistry, it illuminates the utter failure of Darwinism as a scientific theory.
Michael Behe’s summary of the latest in microbiology is a manageable and yet thorough read. Even college level biology students would profit by the review. Behe points out the tips of icebergs as he touches on a variety of scientific achievements, but it’s enough. The magnified view of life’s complexity at the cellular level reveals Darwinism as a drooling, infantile failure. Nothing on the cellular level could have happened accidentally, and none of the cell’s intricacies were anticipated by the evolutionary science of the 1890’s. While elements of Darwin’s Black Box are technical, Behe salts his writing with clear analogies designed to usher readers into the sparkling, jeweled caverns modern science has unearthed by delving into the nature of microbiological processes.
The Battle Against the Mousetrap
Some of Behe’s analogies, such as a mousetrap for the key concept of an irreducibly complex system, have become folk lore in the rhetorical sparing over Darwinism. Yes, there is still sparing. Though written in 1996, more than a
decade later, there seems to be little in the Behe’s work that has been clearly refuted or widely accepted. However, Behe, like his the mousetrap analogy, has completely moved the discussion. For instance, a number of Intelligent Design’s more vociferous opponents have all but completely abandoned Darwin in their war with Behe’s mousetrap. Rather than random mutation they have opted for notions such as self-organization (at Part 3), redundant complexity (at Part 4), or symbiosis and cooperation (Margulis). Though these alternative explanations for the irreducibly complex systems within a single cell remain riveted in naturalism, they are simply not Darwinian. If Darwin is still kicking, it’s like a hind in the jaws of a lion. In the parlance of the ready scientific mind: in the Darwin-Behe bout: “Darwin got lit up.”
Though it represents a battlefield over a decade old, Darwin’s Black Box remains an important read. Behe’s arguments are often dismissed by an appeal to authority rather than an appeal to evidence or reason. Likewise, his detractors often truncate his arguments to the point of misrepresentation. At times too, his work is grouped with the work of others and then the examples of others are criticized while Behe’s are ignored. There is sort of a religious vehemence in the resurrect-Darwin crowd. It’s as if they seriously believe that scientific knowledge can only be produced by atheistic minds. Newton did OK. Mendel did well enough. When such emotions are engendered over any topic, it is all the more important to go to the source.
Microevolution and Macroevolution
Behe fully embraces what is known as microevolution, or evolution within a species. He does, however, reject macroevolution as an explanation for the irreducibly complex systems that are the foundation of biologic life. If the building blocks are irreducible, their combinations in complex organs are surpassingly irreducible. The likelihood, statistically, of irreducibly complex building blocks giving rise to even more irreducibly complex interactions are staggering. Some other force, reasons Behe, must be in operation besides random chance.
Of course, it is impossible not to recognize microevolution as scientific. From horse-breeding to rose hybrids, evidence for genetic change within a species is irrefutable. However, unlike many biology textbooks that, seemingly, seek to blend both microevolution and macroevolution into a single spectrum, Behe competently walks the reader through the distinctions between the two. From mammalian life to the virus, Darwin’s Black Box catalogs examples of microevolution errantly used as evidence for macroevolution.
Unlike microevolution, macroevolution has never been observed. It is the speculative part of Darwinism; it is the theoretical conclusion of Charles Darwin based on his observations of the natural world. Behe believes that the study of genetics, a field of science that has evolved since Darwin’s passing, really puts the nails in the coffin of the blurred distinction between microevolution and macroevolution. In “The Natives are Restless” section, for instance, Behe quotes George Macdonald of the University of Georgia who wrote: “…Those [genes] that are obviously variable within natural populations (species) do not seem to lie at the basis of many major adaptive changes, while those that seemingly do constitute the foundation of many, if not most, major adaptive changes apparently are not variable within natural populations.”
This genetic strength within a species, this orderliness in nature, is so profound that, of the millions of forms of life in existence today, we witness no cat-dogs or mice-hares. Nor, over the century since Darwin, have we seen ought but the catfish and the horsefly as examples of macroevolution.
Behe, though, is still filled with such scientific piety that he will not willingly cast off its set traditions so easily. He yet will allow endless time for the age of the earth and eons upon eons for the spawn of chance to arrive. It is only because of the statistical impossibility of random chance giving rise to irreducibly complex systems that Behe has strayed from the flock.
Of Philosophy and Science
As a reader, I would have liked to have seen Behe take on the formulation of scientific theory. For instance, while gravity is an invisible force, its qualities are everywhere testable. Likewise, while microevolution is everywhere observable, the invisible laws of its regulation can be tested over and over. To my thinking, any scientific theory based on a definition that cannot be observed or tested is inadequate. Perhaps this, though, is more philosophy than science. Behe does, in his two sections “Acculturation” and “How Do You Know,” take on the usefulness of Darwinism as a theory in microbiology. He lists biology textbook after biology textbook with almost no index entries for evolution. He does so to show the lack of academic enthusiasm for testing Darwinian explanations, but, at least, implicitly, he also shows just how useless Darwinism has become to the actual business of science itself.
Beginning in chapter 10, Darwin’s Black Box takes on elements of natural philosophy as a guide to primitive theories of Intelligent Design. In chapter 11 this search for historic understanding of irreducibly complex systems begins to touch on the ontological and philosophical ramifications of a continued committed belief in Darwinian macroevolution. Behe does finally talk about ideas held as part of science that are not ideas formed scientifically. Likewise, he does an adequate job surrounding the counter argument of his detractors that his conclusion that life arose by Intelligent Design is an argument from ignorance.
Behe’s casual foray into philosophy is the only place he touches on Darwinian evolution as a philosophical idea, and he does not do so directly. Darwin’s theory of evolution is, of course, plainly a philosophic notion. We would not even discuss Darwinism if the origin of life was not the question. Is such a question even in the purview of the natural sciences? Like accurate or inaccurate history, the way we answer these questions affect the way we look at ourselves, our actions and the actions of others. While Mendel’s two, very testable laws of microevolution, made no claims about the origin of life, macroevolution depends on a specific answer to this ancient philosophical debate.
Darwin’s macroevolution supposes, or potentially can be construed to suppose, no starting point. All arises from chaos. Additionally, the claims of macroevolution are that biologic life arises according to no consistent law. Instead, it arises from the principle of randomness, again from chaos itself. Even the zero in math represents the start of a period or sequence. Even the laws of probability and chance require known factors as well as unknown, variables and constants.
If Darwin’s answer to the origin of life is philosophical rather than scientific, then is Behe’s answer also philosophical? Ultimately, Behe’s argument for Intelligent Design contains two conclusions. The first is that Darwin is toast; microbiology cannot be explained by evolution. His second is that since chance cannot explain the natural world, only design can.
His first thesis is certainly correct. The second will be up to each reader. For some there will never be enough evidence. But for the first conclusion is more than enough scientific evidence for anyone interested in purely scientific knowledge. Darwin has been deselected in the evolution of humanity’s knowledge of the universe.
Let each high school student see that the Darwin theory is insufficient, and let the question of our origins boil within each heart. Think of the inspiration for further discovery that will result.
For other readers who, like myself, need little prompting to believe that spring rains, the human family, and a waddling mallard with her ducklings all mean this old world couldn’t have happened accidentally, Darwin’s Black Box represents the start of a great excursion. What was once the purview of personal observation has is now also the dominion of man’s greatest observational tools in math and science. The recognition of science’s power to magnify the amazing wonder of creation represents an amazing adventure. Our increased ability to observe Design through the lens of science is dramatic. We can go from seeing the dim outlines of a great lion in the distance to suddenly having a telescopic lens detailing his blood shot eyes and shaking mane as he roars upon the prey.
Oddly, where philosophers have haggled themselves hoarse on the matter of the evidence of the divine in the logic of man, Darwinism may, by being discredited as a science, allow science to bear new and powerful witness to the things of God already known to the created things from the beginning.