Michael J. Behe A (R)evolutionary Biologist

Darwin’s Black Box

In Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe argues that evidence of evolution’s limits has been right under our noses, but its undoing is evident at such a small scale that we have only recently been able to see it. The field of biochemistry, begun when Watson and Crick discovered the double-helical shape of DNA, has unlocked the secrets of the cell. There, biochemists have unexpectedly discovered a world of Lilliputian complexity. As Behe engagingly demonstrates, using the examples of vision, bloodclotting, cellular transport, and more, the biochemical world comprises an arsenal of chemical machines, made up of finely calibrated, interdependent parts. For Darwinian evolution to be true, there must have been a series of mutations, each of which produced its own working machine, that led to the complexity we can now see. The more complex and interdependent each machine’s parts are shown to be, the harder it is to defend Darwin’s gradualistic paths. Behe surveys the professional science literature and shows that it is completely silent on the subject, stymied by the elegance of the foundation of life. Could it be that there is some greater force at work?

Behe believes in the scientific method and does not look to religious dogma for answers to these questions. But he argues persuasively that biochemical machines must have been “designed” — either by God, or by some other higher intelligence. For decades science has been frustrated, trying to reconcile the astonishing discoveries of modern biochemistry to a nineteenth-century theory that cannot accommodate them. With the publication of Darwin’s Black Box, it is time for scientists to allow themselves to consider exciting new possibilities, and for the rest of us to watch closely.

For this edition, Behe has written a major new Afterword tracing the state of the debate in the decade since it began. It is his first major new statement on the subject and will be welcomed by the thousands who wish to continue this intense debate.

Media

Commendations

Naming Darwin’s Black Box to the National Review’s list of the 100 most important nonfiction works of the twentieth century, George Gilder wrote that it “overthrows Darwin at the end of the twentieth century in the same way that quantum theory overthrew Newton at the beginning.” Discussing the book in The New Yorker in May 2005, H. Allen Orr said of Behe, “he is the most prominent of the small circle of scientists working on intelligent design, and his arguments are by far the best known.” From one end of the spectrum to the other, Darwin’s Black Box has established itself as the key text in the Intelligent Design movement — the one argument that must be addressed in order to determine whether Darwinian evolution is sufficient to explain life as we know it, or not.

Darwin’s Black Box helped to launch the Intelligent Design movement: the argument that nature exhibits evidence of design, beyond Darwinian randomness. Today, with the movement stronger than ever, Michael J. Behe updates the book with an important new Afterword on the state of the debate.

Time

A persuasive book. It will speak to the layman and perhaps even to professional evolutionists as well, if they are able to suspend for a little while their own judgment about origins, the ultimate black box.

The Washington Times

An argument of great originality, elegance, and intellectual power. . . . No one can propose to defend Darwin without meeting the challenges set out in this superbly written and compelling book.

David Berlinski, author of A Tour of the Calculus

Overthrows Darwin at the end of the twentieth century in the same way that quantum theory overthrew Newton at the beginning.

George Gilder in National Review

[Behe] is the most prominent of the small circle of scientists working on intelligent design, and his arguments are by far the best known.

H. Allen Orr in The New Yorker

When examined with the powerful tools of modern biology, but not with its modern prejudices, life on a biochemical level can be a product, Behe says, only of intelligent design. Coming from a practicing biologist. . . this proposition is close to heretical.

The New York Times Book Review

In the News

Continuing coverage of the themes and science addressed in Darwin’s Black Box from Evolution News.

What Precipitated the Intelligent Design Movement?

Here are some thoughts prompted by a rather curious question posed to me in an email, namely, “What were the findings that most helped ID since the turn of the millennium?” Now, I say “curious” for two reasons: First, the modern ID movement really precedes the turn of the millennium, so to me this question misses its historical target. And second, the “findings” one might think to mention — e.g., modeling of biological systems, improvements in sequencing techniques, the development of cryo-electron microscopy — also fall short of the mark.  I’d prefer to ask: What developments set the stage for the Pajaro Dunes meeting, Phil Johnson’s path-breaking Darwin on Trial, and Mike Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box? I would say all of this stood on a platform of

Aquatic Bladderworts — Michael Behe’s “Irreducibly Complex” Mousetrap in Nature

In his book Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe offered the mousetrap as an example of a simple everyday device that is “irreducibly complex,” because it requires several components before it can catch any mice. Behe argued that there are many such machines in living cells which have no use, and therefore provide zero selective advantage, until all or many of their numerous components are in place.   Well, here is Behe’s mousetrap in nature! “Delicate” but Deadly In an appendix to my 1985 book Analysis of a Finite Element Method: PDE/PROTRAN, I offered as an example of irreducible complexity (though Behe would not coin that term until 11 years later), the aquatic bladderworts (Utricularia). They are described in Plants and Environment (R.F. Daubenmire, Wiley, 1947)

Darwinism and Intelligent Design in Poland 

On January 29, 2020, I arrived in Warsaw, Poland, in the middle of a blizzard. Fortunately, most of the snow had cleared away by January 31, when I lectured at an event celebrating the release of a new Polish translation of my book, Icons of Evolution.  The event was organized by Fundacja En Arche (the En Arche Foundation, or roughly, the Origins Foundation). Although its critics call it a “creationist” organization, Fundacja En Arche is not about biblical creationism (whether young Earth or old Earth). Instead, it focuses on the scientific and philosophical issues of Darwinism and intelligent design. I told the staff that the foundation reminded me of Discovery Institute twenty years ago.  A major part of En Arche’s work so far has been translating into Polish books

Philosophical-ish Objections to Intelligent Design: A Response to Paul Draper

Recently I was asked by several people whether I had ever responded to an old review of Darwin’s Black Box by Purdue University philosopher of religion Paul Draper. I had not done so, but will use the occasion to respond now and to clear up a couple of philosophical-ish objections that have been raised against intelligent design over the years. In 2002 Draper — then on the faculty of Florida International University — published a paper in the journal Faith and Philosophy: Journal of the Society of Christian Philosophers, entitled “Irreducible complexity and Darwinian gradualism: a Reply to Michael J. Behe.”1 Draper wrote that “My goal in this paper will be to show that, while this challenge is both more original and, with a few modifications, more powerful than many of

Michael Behe on the Design Idea That Won’t Go Away (and Shouldn’t)

On a new episode of ID the Future, Jonathan Witt catches up with Darwin’s Black Box author and biochemist Michael Behe at the 2020 Dallas Conference on Science & Faith, where the two discuss an idea that many wish would just go away, but hasn’t. Download the podcast or listen to it here. Charles Darwin himself told us how his evolutionary theory could be overturned: identify a biological system that couldn’t possibly have evolved by “numerous success successive slight modifications.” It’s to Darwin’s credit that he put his theory in “empirical harm’s way,” to quote philosopher Del Ratzsch. But as Witt and Behe note, Darwin also cleverly placed the burden of proof on his opponents, an arguably dubious maneuver given that his proposed evolutionary mechanism

Cancel Culture Comes to Poland

The term “cancel culture” has recently come to mean the practice of boycotting, or denying a speaking platform to, people whose ideas are considered offensive. I experienced it recently in Warsaw, Poland. Fundacja En Arche (the En Arche Foundation, or roughly, the Origins Foundation) is a Polish group that focuses on the scientific and philosophical issues of Darwinism and intelligent design. Although often labeled “creationist,” it is not about biblical creationism (whether young Earth or old Earth). In many ways it is a lot like Discovery Institute.  A Job Well Done A major part of the foundation’s work so far has been translating into Polish books such as Phillip Johnson’s Darwin on Trial, Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, Michael Behe’s

Looking Forward to Darwin Day? Check Out the Trailer for Behe’s Secrets of the Cell

For Darwin Day, February 12, we are a launching a new five-part series with biochemist Michael Behe, Secrets of the Cell. You can see the splendid trailer now: https://youtu.be/immmGKV3wuU It was Dr. Behe’s insight that the view of evolution as driven by unguided, purposeless processes alone can’t survive an up-close encounter with the “black box,” unknown to Charles Darwin, the cell. Celebrate Darwin’s birthday by coming here, to Evolution News, next Wednesday and sharing the secrets of life, in a beautiful and accessible new series, widely with your friends and

Coming on Darwin Day, a New Video Series — Secrets of the Cell with Michael Behe

The cell is what biochemist Michael Behe has called evolution’s “black box,” its spectacularly complex, superbly designed contents unknown to Charles Darwin. When the box was opened by modern science, it was a turning-point moment for the articulation of the modern theory of intelligent design. A revolution followed, fundamentally challenging how scientists discuss the history of life. Of course that revolution remains ongoing. To reach ever-wider audiences of the skeptical and the unconvinced, whether in academia or the general culture, is the central mission of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. What better occasion for that could there be than February 12, also known as Darwin Day? The birthday of the great man is an occasion each year for atheists

The Long View: Michael Behe Pays Tribute to Phillip Johnson

On a new episode of ID the Future we continue a series of messages from a November 2019 symposium in Berkeley, California, presented in honor of the late Phillip Johnson, who played a crucial role in the flowering of the intelligent design movement. Download the podcast or listen to it here. On today’s episode Lehigh University biology professor Michael Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, and Darwin Devolves, tells about his earliest memories of Phillip Johnson and speaks about the long history of science: how ancient science pointed to purposeful design in life, and how current science is coming full circle. Considering this long view, the conclusion of design is as strong as or stronger than it has ever been. Photo: Phillip and Kathie Johnson at

For Christmas, Michael Behe Opens a Black Box

On a new episode of ID the Future, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe discusses the closing sections of his new book, Darwin Devolves: The New Science about DNA that Challenges Evolution. He compares evolutionary biology in Darwin’s time and today to the world of astronomy before and after the telescope was invented. Download the podcast or listen to it here. The cell was a black box to Darwin and his contemporaries. Today we can explore that black box like never before, much better even than even two decades ago, allowing us to observe what evolution can actually do at the molecular level. According to Behe, the answer is, not much. Evolution can create niche advantages by breaking certain things, but it doesn’t build fundamentally new structures or new machines.

Design in the First Animals

It didn’t take long for animals to master physics and engineering. The first animal body plans were performing feats that fascinate — and baffle — research scientists. Ctenophores: Flashing Paddles Popularly called comb jellies, ctenophores (pronounced TEN-o-fours) are usually small, centimeter-sized marine organisms, although some species are close to a foot long. They are furnished with rows of cilia, called comb rows or ctenes, which function as paddles for swimming. Though gelatinous and transparent, comb jellies are unrelated to jellyfish (phylum Cnidaria); they have been classified into their own phylum, Ctenophora, characterized by eight of these comb rows. Scientists debate whether ctenophores are the earliest animals that appeared in the Cambrian explosion, as opposed

Excellent Adventure: Behe Barnstorms Brazil

On a new episode of ID the Future, Darwin Devolves author and Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe sits down with host Rob Crowther to discuss Behe’s recent speaking trip to Brazil, and where he sees the Darwinism/design debate heading in the next few years. Download the podcast or listen to it here. Oh, and check out these excellent travel snaps, courtesy of our friends Marcos Eberlin and the folks at Discovery Institute’s branch at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo. In their conversation, Behe enthuses about Brazilian food and hospitality, and says the students at the schools where he spoke were refreshingly open to considering the evidence for intelligent design. It was typical of what he finds elsewhere, he says. There is a generational

An Icon Revisited: Flagellar Hook Shows Further Aspects of Design

Our good old favorite ID icon, the bacterial flagellum, has not exhausted its design tricks. Closer views of the hook region show a remarkable network of linked protein components that is flexible, thereby transferring torque efficiently from the motor to the filament. Here is an object where a picture is worth a thousand words. In an animation from a paper in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, reproduced here by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST), one can see at a glance a wonderful apparatus in motion. If you tried to build a pipe that had to rotate on its long axis while maintaining its angular shape, could you do better than this?  This is the hook region of the famous bacterial flagellum that Michael Behe showcased to the world twenty years

Ever Wonder What the Most Asked Questions About Intelligent Design Are?

Since he first shook up the science world with his groundbreaking book Darwin's Black Box, biologist Michael Behe has been fielding questions from scientists and non-scientists alike. Questions posed to Behe over the years since have ranged from technical to general, from philosophical to critical. Now, he will share his answers to the most often asked questions in a fun, five-day ID Challenge. First, join our Five-Day ID Challenge and then be sure to become part of the new CSC Facebook Group which will be our community for this challenge. And, it will be the place to connect with the staff and other participants, receive support, ask questions, and share your progress.  As part of the challenge we'll be posting short video clips there where Behe shares the questions and his

Molecular Motor Threads a Spiral Staircase

Let’s get acquainted with another irreducibly complex molecular motor. This one is a master at unfolding proteins, even the tough nuts that are hard to crack. Its method is ingenious. One shouldn’t think that icons of intelligent design in biochemistry are restricted to the few favorites, like the bacterial flagellum, kinesin, and ATP synthase. There are thousands of them — tens of thousands! Each one is fascinating in its own way. Today’s focus is on one, called the “Cdc48 ATPase complex,” or Cdc48 for short. It’s another ATPase (meaning, it uses ATP for energy) with an important job: unfolding proteins. Most proteins, you recall, are folded into globular shapes. Some of those can get pretty tightly wound, held together with electrical charges and mechanical forces.

More on Darwin’s Black Box