Darwin’s Black Box – details matter

The details do matter
In Michael Behe’s landmark book, Darwin’s Black Box – The Biochemical challenge to Evolution, he points to physical evidence that challenges the undirected (neo-)Darwinian evolution story. Using the examples of vision, blood clotting, cellular transport and more, biochemist Behe shows that the biochemical world comprises an arsenal of chemical machines, made up of finely calibrated, interdependent parts. Behe shows that the professional literature is completely silent on how such incredibly complex machines could have arisen by Darwin’s gradualistic paths. He argues that at a biochemical level scientists have no option but to believe in intelligent design.

In the preface Behe as a section titled “Apologia for Details” in which he relates just how important it is to meticulously follow the assembly instructions for something as simple as a tricycle. He notes:

Unfortunately, much of biochemistry is like an instruction booklet, in the sense that the importance is in the details. A student of biochemistry who merely skims through a biochemistry textbook is virtually certain to spend much of the next exam staring at the ceiling as drops of sweat trickle down his or her forehead. Skimming the textbook does not prepare a student for questions such as «Outline in detail the mechanism of hydrolysis of a peptide bond by trypsin, paying special attention to the role of transition state binding energy.» Although there are broad principles of biochemistry that help a mortal comprehend the general picture of the chemistry of life, broad principles only take you so far. A degree in engineering does not substitute for the tricycle instruction booklet, nor does it directly help you to program your VCR.


In the 10th anniversary edition (2006) Behe added an afterword addressing the nature of the failed critiques to the concept of ‘irreducible complexity’ (IC) including specific responses to a few high profile skeptics. In general, they created a strawman argument by redefining IC with additional attributes that Behe did not include, and then show these new attributes are faulty. Once exposed, these are transparent strawman arguments. The very fact that such poor critiques are prominent is evidence of the failure of the undirected evolution paradigm to explain what we observe.

Behe writes:

In his review of Darwin’s Black Box shortly after its publication in 1996 University of Chicago microbiologist James Shapiro declared, «There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.»33 Ten years later, nothing has changed. Call them wishful speculations or call them plausible scenarios—both just mean a lack of real answers.


The bottom line is that the Apostle Paul was correct when he wrote the Romans that within the creation around us there is evidence for the Creator. Those who choose to ignore such evidence are without excuse.

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