Darwin Black Box the biochemical challenge to evolution by Professor Michael J. Behe

Short Biography of Professor Michael J. Behe

Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. he received my Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. His current research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures. In addition to teaching and research he work as a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture.

In addition to publishing over 35 articles in refereed biochemical journals, He has also written editorial features in Boston Review, American Spectator, and The New York Times. His book, Darwin’s Black Box, discusses the implications for neo-Darwinism of what I call “irreducibly complex” biochemical systems and has sold over 250,000 copies. The book was internationally reviewed in over one hundred publications and recently named by National Review and World magazine as one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century.

Professor Behe has presented and debated his work at major universities throughout North America and England.

Book review of the Darwin the Black box

In 1996 Behe, who is a biochemist, published the book Darwin’s Black Box 3. It constitutes a foundation pillar for Intelligent Design. It refutes Darwinism on a number of levels, and one can safely say that its arguments have never been disproved. Behe presents only biochemical objections. His premise is that life presupposes a complicated interaction between a number of biochemical substances. Life consists of a complex molecular machinery. Behe’s main contribution to Intelligent Design is that he introduced the concept “complex irreducible structures”. By this he means structures that are built up of several parts, where all parts have to be present in order for the structure to function. If even a single part is removed, the structure will lose its ability to function. Behe has become known for using a mouse trap as an example of such a structure. A mouse trap consists of 5 parts. If it is to work, that is, be capable of trapping a mouse, all of the parts have to be there at the same time. If one part is missing, the mouse trap will not have the intended function. In his book, Behe submits convincing arguments for why complex, irreducible structures in biology cannot be formed in accordance with Darwinian principles. Evolutionary biologists have attempted to refute Behe’s arguments, without success.

The first example he shares of such complexity in nature, is vision. The eye consists of a cornea made to let light pass through without being refracted. The cornea is a miracle in itself. Among other things it consists of collagen, which is opaque to light, everywhere else in the body, but not in the cornea. (Should we allow ourselves to wonder?) Then the light passes through the pupil, which has an opening which is determined by the brightness of the light. If the light is bright, it will activate a system in a fraction of a moment, contracting the pupil so it will let through precisely the right amount of light. Then the light will pass the lens, which is also a miracle. Here the beam of light will be re- fracted so there will always be a focused image on the retina. The muscles that are required for this, work incredibly quickly to adjust the lens. The lens is built of up layers that need to have the property of letting the light beam pass right through, with the correct refraction. Otherwise, the beam of light would be divided up into a number of beams going in different directions. Then the light passes through the vitreous body, which also contributes to making the vision sharp. The eye and vision are amazing. Just think how quickly we react if we get a visual signal telling us that something needs to be done, and quickly. If a child comes running out from behind some bushes when we are driving a car, we will in the matter of a split second carry out an action to avoid an accident. It happens so quickly that we might realize what happened only after we acted. We accept this as a matter of course, without even thinking about it. That’s just the way it’s supposed to be. A reaction like this involves a number of activities. The arms need to turn the wheel. The legs need to release the accelerator and hit the brakes, and the intellect also needs to control the entire situation, including other traffic. This shows that there is a well-developed interaction between a number of functions in the body.

When light hits the cornea, a cascade of biochemical processes is triggered, concluded with a nerve impulse being sent to the visual cortex of the brain. In order to show the complexity of this process, the different steps will be men- tioned briefly. The light immediately converts the molecule 11-cis-retinal into trans-retinal. This change results in the change of shape of the protein rhodopsin to which retinal is bound, and it becomes metarhodopsin II, which again binds to another protein called transducin. Transducin, which had been firmly con- nected to GDP (guanosine diphosphate), loses GDP during this process, and binds to GTP instead (guanosine triphosphate). The complex GTP – transducin – metarhodopsin reacts with an enzyme, reducing the amount of cGMP (cyclic guanosine monophosphate – one of the organism’s signal substances). This leads to the reduction of the number of sodium ions. That triggers a nerve impulse being sent to the brain. The result is a visual impression. In order to be able to see, the exactly correct amount of all substances must be present at the same time. If any of them are missing, there will be no vision.

This is only a short overview of the most important biochemical processes involved in vision. Behe’s main argument is that it is impossible for vision to develop according to Darwinian principles, because evolution is a process that takes place over a long period of time, and with minor, gradual changes. Moreo- ver, all evolutionary changes are blind, that means they happen at random. They have no goal, and no specific intention. A Darwinian process is not foresighted. It cannot contemplate a plan to reach a goal. A Darwinian process cannot fore- see the possibility of having vision and the benefits of it. Vision is something that simply happens at random. The probability of cis-retinal being converted to trans-retinal, and that resulting in another configuration of rhodopsin, etc., depending on random processes over a long period of time, is so low that it is impossible to accept it. Behe demands that evolutionary biologists document the evolution of every step in such a biochemical cascade before it can be accepted as a scientific fact. We have still not mentioned all of the underlying biochemical processes that are necessary in order to form the mentioned substances and for them to occur in the right amount, at the right place, at the right time.

The outer muscles of the eye and the interaction between them is also an example of a physiological miracle that allows most of us to always see focused. The interaction between the eyes also has to be absolutely exact, or we would have double vision. And neither have we mentioned the miracle involved when our brain translates a nerve impulse into an image. Darwin understood that the perfection of the eye and the ability to see, was so overwhelming that they con- stituted a serious counter argument against his theory. We can easily understand Darwin, who said he got chills when thinking about the greatness of the eye. The principles of Darwinism are not able to explain the complexity of the eye.

The same argument can be applied to the coagulation of the blood. During the course of our life, we all get major and minor wounds that bleed. But for most of us, the bleeding will cease quite quickly by itself, possibly assisted by dressing and first aid, because the blood has the ability to coagulate. A cascade reaction consists of several elements, the first element activating the next, which again activates the next element, etc. Coagulation is such a cascade reaction that can be compared with setting up dominoes so they fall if you give the last domino a shove. However, if one domino is missing or is positioned incor- rectly, not all of the dominoes will come tumbling down. The coagulation of the blood requires that 16 different substances, called factors, react one after the other, in a very specific way. If one such factor is missing or there is a mistake with one factor, there will not be a complete cascade reaction and the bleeding will not stop. Then we develop coagulation disorders. These are caused by the lack of one factor in the coagulation cascade. That is why all necessary factors for blood coagulation must be present from the early stage of life. Otherwise the species would be made extinct because of bleeding from wounds that eve- ryone incurs at one time or another. According to Darwinism, however, these 16 factors would have been developed one by one, over a long period of time. Behe’s argumentation shows which tremendous and insurmountable problems evolutionists encounter when trying to explain the evolutionary structure of the coagulation mechanism.

At the end of his book, Behe argues that Intelligent Design is the best ex- planation of complex irreducible structures and many biochemical reactions. When biochemical processes such as the coagulation of blood are built up of a number of substances reacting with each other in a predefined, exact way, it is not possible to avoid a creative intelligence.

One of Michael Behe’s most significant contributions in this book is the identification of the fact that intricate, extremely complex and precisely speci- fied machinery which is a prerequisite for life, cannot have come into existence gradually over a long period of time. Since life depends on this machinery, it must have been already prepared from the beginning of life – the direct opposite of Darwinism’s axiom on moderate, gradual changes over a long period of time.

We should also mention that Behe’s book was particularly poorly received by parts of the Darwinian elite. Behe was sometimes referred to in such derogatory terms that the word “hate” would be the most suitable. Unfortunately, it is not such a rare characteristic trait among atheistic Darwinists that they so easily resort to personal attacks on people who have a different view than themselves. This can mean that they are either out of professional counterarguments, or that the presented arguments are perceived as threatening and constitute an attack on their philosophy of life.

Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box is considered one of the 100 most significant books published in the last century.