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Darwin’s Black Box

The Biochemical Challenge to EvolutionMichael J. Behe

Darwin’s Black Box, by Lehigh University biochemist and Senior Discovery Institute Fellow Michael Behe, was the bestseller that first put the term “intelligent design” in the public eye. Behe tells his story of having been a graduate student and biochemist who had no reason to doubt Darwin’s theory, that is, until he started to examine the evidence.

Decades ago, Behe explains, biologists thought that the cell was little more than a simple glob of protoplasm. Behe notes that in Origin of Species, Darwin posed a test whereby “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” Darwin thought he could find “no such organ” to fail that test, but Behe explains that the biotechnological revolution has revealed levels of cellular intricacy unimagined by Darwin.

The cell contains many microbiological machines which Behe calls “irreducibly complex.” According to Behe, “[i]rreducible complexity is found in a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning” (pg. 39). In a tour of modern biochemistry, Darwin’s Black Box reveals a whole suite of irreducibly complex structures in the cell. These range from the outboard engine on bacteria called the “flagellum” to a complex system of proteins necessary for blood clotting.

Behe sees the complex interaction of parts in irreducibly complex machines as indicative of the type of structure which could only be produced by the foresight and goal-directed planning of an intelligent mind. Behe’s theory has accounted for the origin of these structures, but evolutionists are still conspicuously without detailed and credible accounts of the “numerous, successive, slight modifications” that could have produced the biochemical machines highlighted in Darwin’s Black Box.

Michael J. Behe

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Michael J. Behe is Professor of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania and a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. Behe's current research involves delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures. In his career he has authored over 40 technical papers and three books, Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA that Challenges Evolution, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, and The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, which argue that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design.