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Critique of Michael J. Behe’s Book: “Darwin’s Black Box”

Critique of Michael J. Behe’s Book: “Darwin’s Black Box”

At the beginning, Behe defines Darwinian evolution as ‘a process whereby life arose from nonliving matter and subsequently developed entirely by natural means.’ But he tempers evolution viability with questions raised from ‘irreducible complexity’ in the biochemical processes. Assailing unanswered questions arising in evolution theory, Behe contends: “At the tiniest levels of biology — the chemical life of the cell — we have discovered a complex world that radically changes the grounds on which Darwinian debates must be contested.”

Behe admits to Catholic heritage in a biochemistry ambiance; as such, from the very first, he writes with one hand tied behind his back. The biological metaphysician in Behe is the Creationist in critique of Darwin’s Evolution. Like all traditional religionists, he tempers conservative spirituality with generous helpings of liberal doctrinaire.

Science conceived the idea of cellular existence at about the same time as Darwin’s voyage and evolutionary vision. He could not access Behe’s considerable library on cellular structure, to advanced molecular knowledge, nor even to contemporaneous theoreticians Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, who concluded: “cells compose the entire bodies of animals and plants, and that in some way the cells are individual units with a life of their own.” Behe described Schleiden and Schwann as biochemists at work in the early to middle 1800s — the time of Darwin’s travels and composing notes to write “The Origin of Species.” In this regard, new discoveries in the field of biology were not available to the intrepid Darwin.

Behe assigns Darwin’s theory to a ‘Black Box’ of unanswered questions. He denigrates Darwin’s broadly based theory and creates a few ‘Black Boxes’ of his own: to wit, the perception of ‘irreducible complexity’ in cellular development, even when such complexity can be further reduced, to the very least atomic particle and to atom affinity toward symbiosis. He posits the last remaining box to be the cell — opened to reveal molecules — the bedrock of nature. But does not the bedrock of nature rest, not in molecules, but in single atoms and these somehow affected by subatomic particles, and other forces yet unclassified or unproven as energy incentives. Basic biochemistry must perceive the assembly of two or more atoms to constitute molecular creation. ‘Hydrogen atoms’ are the most abundant element in the universe, used in production of synthetic ammonia and methanol, in petroleum refining, and in organic materials hydrogenation. Within hydrogen and oxygen qualities rest the propensity to create water; all it takes is two hydrogen and one oxygen atom to create a molecule of water; even so, a catalyst is necessary to instigate precipitation; notwithstanding, all other molecules result from different atom combinations.

Admitted by Behe, Black Boxes sometimes occur within Black Boxes and sometimes the new boxes demand we revise all of our theories. Thus, Darwin cannot be the only theorist creating Black Boxes without qualification or resolution. Behe quotes the Santa Fe Institute’s Stuart Kauffman, who suggested the Darwinian theory of evolution to be true and to account for the molecular structure of life. Of course, Darwin could not explain molecular structure because the knowledge and biochemistry tools available today were not widely available in Darwin’s day!

A fault is found in Behe’s consensus to denigrate ‘natural selection’ as unworthy to account for the ‘irreducible complexity’ common to cellular development. Contrary to Behe’s view, the ‘irreducible complexity’ found in cellular development does not obviate a chance for ‘Natural Selection’ processes. He strains at a gnat and swallows a camel!

Hydrogen and Oxygen have the inherent propensity to produce water — without creature influence. Might we not conclude, the same combining force exists in other atomic essence? Gold ore does not appear as an initial occurrence, but gold atoms have the propensity to assimilate under the right conditions-into grains, nuggets, and threads of metal. The B cell antibody mimics atomic attraction, its ‘Y’ extension from cell body construction, on its split extension, is so configured as to fit the shape of encountered objects (bacteria), and thus bond — which B cell then replicates its antibody properties. And does the human brain not resemble polypeptide evolvement folded into quaternary structure? We find much resemblance in visible assemblies and microbiology. Does not a polypeptide endure the same fold around its backbone as a developing fetus?

Behe demonstrates the cell to be a molecular machine and describes molecular steps in the production of AMP, a mononucleotide found in cells. First, a composite molecule begins the building processes with assembly of carbon, oxygen, and phosphorus, as the host molecule. Thus we begin an incredibly complex system of atom substrates addition and subsequent discard of no longer needed atom components. Evolvement, from one stage to another, motivates attraction of yet other atom composites; with each additional composite inhering the ability to reject unneeded atoms and thus prepare for the next fusion. A dozen sequenced diagrams illustrate Behe’s ‘irreducible complexity.’ Whoa! Irreducible? Is AMP not the product of evolution?

Contrary to Behe bias, AMP production, similar to other molecular designs, cannot be separated from Darwin’s larger scale hypotheses; for, molecule development also derives from nonliving matter and is subsequently developed entirely by natural means!

Creationism appeals to majority intellect; and often, Evolution paints its own evil contrast to Creation purity. But such represents a mere placation of metaphysical convictions and thus a relish enjoyed by majority consensus. After all, Michael J. Behe was a Catholic first, a Biologist second, and an Apologist third. It makes little sense for Behe to bash Darwin’s evolution theory, in light of his own AMP molecular development living side-by-side with Darwin’s evolutionary processes.

In the interest of science, Behe devised understandable biochemistry processes involving ‘irreducible complexity,’ and contributing much to reader enlightenment. We recommend this book as a means for modest intellects to understand how living creatures derive from quantum incentives. Evolution, or Intelligent Design, then, remains unresolved and left to individual determination. Yet, research is available questioning the distinction between ‘irreducible complexity’ and evolution. Intelligence, as in AMP segments, must seek its own destiny.