Michael J. Behe A (R)evolutionary Biologist

The Edge of Evolution

When Michael J. Behe’s first book, Darwin’s Black Box, was published in 1996, it launched the intelligent design movement. Critics howled, yet hundreds of thousands of readers and a growing number of scientists were intrigued by Behe’s claim that Darwinism could not explain the complex machinery of the cell. Now, in his long-awaited follow-up, Behe presents far more than a challenge to Darwinism: He presents the evidence of the genetics revolution, the first direct evidence of nature’s mutational pathways to radically redefine the debate about Darwinism.

How much of life does Darwin’s theory explain? Most scientists believe it accounts for everything from the machinery of the cell to the history of life on earth. Darwin’s ideas have been applied to law, culture, and politics.

But Darwin’s theory has been proven only in one sense: There is little question that all species on earth descended from a common ancestor. Overwhelming anatomical, genetic, and fossil evidence exists for that claim. But the crucial question remains: How did it happen? Darwin’s proposed mechanism- random mutation and natural selection- has been accepted largely as a matter of faith and deduction or, at best, circumstantial evidence. Only now, thanks to genetics, does science allow us to seek direct evidence. The genomes of many organisms have been sequenced, and the machinery of the cell has been analyzed in great detail. The evolutionary responses of microorganisms to antibiotics and humans to parasitic infections have been traced over tens of thousands of generations.

As a result, for the first time in history Darwin’s theory can be rigorously evaluated. The results are shocking. Although it can explain marginal changes in evolutionary history, random mutation and natural selection explain very little of the basic machinery of life. The “edge” of evolution, a line that defines the border between random and nonrandom mutation, lies very far from where Darwin pointed. Behe argues convincingly that most of the mutations that have defined the history of life on earth have been nonrandom.

Although it will be controversial and stunning, this finding actually fits a general pattern discovered by other branches of sciences in recent decades: The universe as a whole was fine-tuned for life. From physics to cosmology to chemistry to biology , life on earth stands revealed as depending upon an endless series of unlikely events. The clear conclusion: The universe was designed for life.

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Endorsements

“With this book, Michael Behe shows that he is truly an independent thinker of the first order. He carefully examines the data of evolution, along the way making an argument for universal common descent that will make him no friends among young-earth creationists, and draws in new facts, especially the data on malaria, that have not been part of the public debate at all up to now. This book will take the intelligent design debate into new territory and represents a unique contribution to the longstanding question of philosophy: Can observation of the physical world guide our thinking about religious questions?”

Professor David Snoke, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh

In The Edge of Evolution Michael Behe carefully assesses the evidence of what Darwin’s mechanism of random mutation and selection can achieve in well documented cases, and shows that even in those cases that maximize its power as a creative force it has only been able to generate very trivial examples of evolutionary change. Could such an apparently impotent and mindless force really have built the sophisticated molecular devices found throughout nature? The answer, he insists, is no. The only common-sense explanation is intelligent design.

Michael Denton, M.D., Ph.D., author of Nature’s Destiny

In crystal-clear prose Behe systematically shreds the central dogma of atheistic science, the doctrine of the random universe. This book, like the natural phenomena it so elegantly describes, shows the unmistakable signs of a very deep intelligence at work.

Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., Research Psychiatrist, UCLA, and author of The Mind & The Brain

“Until the past decade and the genomics revolution, Darwin’s theory rested on indirect evidence and reasonable speculation. Now, however, we have begun to scratch the surface of direct evidence, of which this book offers the best possible treatment. Though many critics won’t want to admit it, The Edge of Evolution is very balanced, careful, and devastating. A tremendously important book.

Dr. Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Pennsylvania State University, and member of the National Academy of Sciences

“With this book, Michael Behe shows that he is truly an independent thinker of the first order. In a day when the media present all issues in the football metaphor as two teams fighting, the intelligent design debate is presented simplistically as authors who are lapdogs for young-earth creationists versus evolutionists who are lapdogs for atheists. Michael Behe is no lapdog. He carefully examines the data of evolution, along the way making an argument for universal common descent that will make him no friends among young-earth creationists, and draws in new facts, especially the data on malaria, that have not been part of the public debate at all up to now. This book will take the intelligent design debate into new territory and represents a unique contribution on the longstanding question of philosophy: can observation of the physical world guide our thinking about religious questions?”

Professor David Snoke, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh

Criticism and Response

Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe’s book The Edge of Evolution (2007) has sparked spirited debate about the limits of Darwinian mechanisms to produce significant biological change. Read about the continuing debate and Behe’s responses to it in the articles below.

Vindication of Michael Behe’s Arguments about Chloroquine Resistance in 2014:

Michael Behe, “A Key Inference of The Edge of Evolution Has Now Been Experimentally Confirmed” (July 14, 2014)

Casey Luskin, “So, Michael Behe Was Right After All; What Will the Critics Say Now?” (July 16, 2014)

Michael Behe, “It’s Tough to Make Predictions, Especially About the Future” (July 16, 2014)

Michael Behe, “The Edge of Evolution: Why Darwin’s Mechanism Is Self-Limiting” (July 18, 2014)

Michael Behe, “An Open Letter to Kenneth Miller and PZ Myers” (July 21, 2014)

Ann Gauger, “A Pretty Sharp Edge: Reflecting on Michael Behe’s Vindication” (July 28, 2014)

Other responses:

“A Modest Comeback for Lamarck, and a Reminder of the Edge of Evolution” (December 7, 2011)

Michael Behe, “The Edge of Evolution, as seen by Dave Ussery and BioLogos” (November 19, 2010)

Michael Behe, “Dave Ussery Ruminates about The Edge of Evolution” (November 18, 2010)

Michael Behe, “Dollo’s law, the symmetry of time, and the edge of evolution” (October 12, 2009)

Michael Behe, “Nature Paper Reaches “Edge of Evolution” and Finds Darwinian Processes Lacking” (October 6, 2009)

Michael Behe, “Nature Publishes Paper on the Edge of Evolution” (September 30, 2009)

Anika Smith, “Swine Flu and the Edge of Evolution” (May 6, 2009)

Casey Luskin, “Swine Flu, Viruses, and the Edge of Evolution” (May 1, 2009)

Anika Smith, “Michael Behe’s Edge of Evolution Vindicated From Genetics Paper” (March 19, 2009)

Anika Smith, “Debate Over Behe’s Edge of Evolution in Genetics” (March 10, 2009)

Casey Luskin, “Rebuttal to Paul Gross’ Review of The Edge of Evolution – Error #4: Misrepresenting the State of Thinking in Cosmology” (November 18, 2007)

Casey Luskin, “Rebuttal to Paul Gross’ Review of The Edge of Evolution – Error #3: Ignoring Behe’s Rebuttal of Exaptation Speculation” (November 7, 2007)

Casey Luskin, “Rebuttal to Paul Gross’ Review of The Edge of Evolution – Error #2: Failing to Stay Positive” (November 6, 2007)

Casey Luskin, “Rebuttal to Paul Gross’s Review of Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution – Error #1: A Calculation Is not ‘A Mere Guess'” (November 4, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Science, E. coli, and the Edge of Evolution: Behe Responds” (October 16, 2007)

Robert Crowther “California Literary Review Interviews Michael Behe on The Edge of Evolution” (September 24, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Behe’s Edge of Evolution Continues to Attract Attention” (July 14, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Behe Responds to Miller’s Review of Edge of Evolution in Nature” (July 12, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Debunking Dawkins: Discussing his Edge of Evolution Book Review” (July 6, 2007)

Casey Luskin “Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part IV): Mistaking Protein Sequence Similarity for Natural Selection” (July 2, 2007)

Casey Luskin “Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution: A Rebuttal to Sean Carroll’s Anti-ID Book Review in Science A Response to Sean B. Carroll’s ‘God as Genetic Engineer’ in Science” (July 2, 2007)

Casey Luskin “Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part III): Is Carroll Scared of Approaching the Edge of Evolution?” (June 29, 2007)

Casey Luskin “Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part II): Carroll’s Citations Actually Confirm Michael Behe’s Arguments” (June 28, 2007)

Anika Smith “Behe Talks Back: Taking on Critics of The Edge of Evolution” (June 27, 2007)

Casey Luskin “Sean Carroll Fails to Scale The Edge of Evolution (Part I): How Carroll Misrepresents Michael Behe’s Arguments” (June 26, 2007)

Bruce Chapman “Behe Responds to Propaganda Attacks Against The Edge of Evolution” (June 25, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Questions and Answers from Mike Behe About The Edge of Evolution” (June 19, 2007)

“Interview with Michael Behe on The Edge of Evolution” (June 18, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Science Historian Sees Behe’s Edge of Evolution as a Cultural Earthquake” (June 15, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Plain Talk About Mike Behe’s New Book, The Edge of Evolution” (June 14, 2007)

Robert Crowther “An Interview with Michael Behe author of The Edge of Evolution” (June 13, 2007)

Robert Crowther “Biochemist Michael Behe Stirs the Waters of Controversy at The Edge of Evolution” (June 11, 2007)

“Behe’s New Book: The Edge of Evolution” (May 22, 2007)

Michael Behe, “The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism” (May 21, 2007)

In the News

Continuing coverage of the themes and science addressed in The Edge of Evolution from Evolution News.

A "Lush" World Defies Materialist Explanations, as Behe and Denton Confirm

It is well known, and accepted in scientific circles, that the conditions on our planet are extremely fine-tuned for life: the Earth is just the right size, it is just the right distance from its sun, our sun is the right type of star, our atmosphere has many rare and lucky features — the list goes on and on.  A few of these fine-tuned features are documented in Episode 4 of Science Uprising. Of course materialists have an explanation for it all: there are many planets in the universe, only a very few are suitable for life, but we are here because our Earth is one of these rare planets.  It is also well known, and documented in the same Science Uprising episode, that not only is our Earth an ideal planet for life to thrive, but our whole

Darwinism Would Fare Poorly Against Pandemics

In an article last month in Nature, Ann Reid, executive director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), praised the apparent success of efforts to teach Darwin-only curricula in public schools. We’ve addressed some major weaknesses in her account, here, here, and here. Reid’s predecessor, Eugenie Scott, once said, “There are no weaknesses in the theory of evolution.” Reid’s article frames the NCSE’s dogmatic view of evolution as if it is necessary for solving urgent public health crises, such as the current coronavirus pandemic. She's wrong: Understanding evolution helped us to make educated guesses about how the virus might have changed between 1918 and the 1930s, when influenza viruses were first isolated. This enabled us

Irreconcilable Differences: Can Darwinism Be Pasteurized?

Editor’s note: As biologist Jonathan Wells observes, “he measures being taken against the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic owe nothing to evolutionary theory.” Yet a persistent claim from evolutionists is that medical research would be crippled without a Darwinian framework. Evolution News presents a series of our previously published work addressing the myth of “Darwinian medicine.” Michael Egnor has criticized so-called “Darwinian medicine” as a useless concept, since medical science has had spectacular success without it. Darwinism is about the death of the unfit, focused on populations instead of individuals. Medicine is about healing individuals and anyone who needs help, including the unfit, the weak, and the vulnerable. How can the father of evolutionary theory, Charles

Approved by FDA Against COVID-19, Chloroquine Is Also Prominent in the Case for Intelligent Design

Yesterday, as a possible weapon against COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration rushed out approval for an anti-malarial treatment. What does malaria, a tropical disease caused by a parasite, have to do with the viral infection rampaging across the globe? When an anxious public first learned about the chloroquine as a tool against the novel coronavirus, some of us with no experience of tropical medicine said to ourselves, “Wait, I’ve heard of that before.” Yes, chloroquine-resistant malarial parasites figure prominently in biochemist and ID proponent Michael Behe’s argument for sharp limits to what unguided Darwinian processes can do. He details that case in his book The Edge of Evolution. Now, on a fascinating and very timely episode of ID the Future, Professor Behe

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

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

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

How Does a Religious Studies Professor Become a Darwinian Skeptic?

Editor’s note: We are delighted to welcome Dr. Shedinger as a new contributor. A Professor of Religion at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, he is the author of a new book critiquing Darwinian triumphalism, The Mystery of Evolutionary Mechanisms: Darwinian Biology's Grand Narrative of Triumph and the Subversion of Religion, from which this post is adapted. For most of my fifty-nine years, I fully accepted the truth of Darwinian evolution. I knew that Daniel Dennett had called Darwin’s theory the best idea anyone has ever had and was quite familiar with Richard Dawkins’s aggressive defense of modern evolutionary theory. Moreover, I had a passing familiarity with the biological establishment’s disparaging treatment of intelligent design theory and accepted the view that ID is

Irreducible Complexity Defeated? Behe on Ken Miller’s Mousetrap Tie-Clip

Biologist Kenneth Miller thought he had scored a point against biochemist Michael Behe’s concept of irreducible complexity. At a conference, says Miller, “I removed two parts from a mousetrap (leaving just the base, spring, and hammer), and used that 3-part device as a functional tie-clip.” Check out this bonus video from the Science Uprising series, where Behe amusedly tells what’s wrong with Miller’s demonstration: https://youtu.be/zTtLEJABbTw He also explains the “edge of evolution,” which he has traced to the level of biological family, as in cats versus dogs. Down to that level in the taxonomic scheme, evolution must reflect intelligent design. Further down, Darwinian processes may reign, primarily by breaking, though, rather than building. The author most

Time to Put a Lid on Cichlid Evolution Propaganda

According to researchers at Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, “Cichlid diversification in East Africa has become a central paradigm in evolutionary biology.” The subject, therefore, merits some attention for Darwin watchers. When evaluating a claim, it’s important to focus on central paradigms. If this is one of them, it looks pretty weak. Cichlids comprise a large family of fish, primarily living in freshwater habitats. Because they show tremendous variety in size and coloration, evolutionists have taken a keen interest in how they diversify. The news item introduces the family: Cichlids (Cichlidae) are a group of small to medium-sized fish that are ubiquitous in freshwater habitats in the tropics. They are particularly notable in exhibiting a wide range of

On Book Tour, Marcos Eberlin Sparks Thought About the ID Movement

World-renowned chemist Marcos Eberlin, author of the new book Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose, is currently on a book tour, with events in Dallas, Southern California, Colorado, and Seattle, and elsewhere. I heard his insightful and joyful presentation last week to the Southern California Chapter of the Science & Culture Network, and his remarks sparked thoughts for me. During the Q&A, an attendee asked why intelligent design proponents don’t just come out and explicitly say the designer is God. It’s a question I’ve heard from students I’ve taught at Biola University. A couple of years ago I wrote here about why the ID movement, in not identifying the designer, isn’t being coy. I wanted to revisit this topic. As Far as It

Can’t Anybody Here Make Distinctions?

This is the fourth in a series of posts responding to the extended critique of Darwin Devolves by Richard Lenski at his blog, Telliamed Revisited. Professor Lenski is perhaps the most qualified scientist in the world to analyze the arguments of my book. He is the Hannah Distinguished Professor of Microbial Ecology at Michigan State University, a MacArthur (“Genius Award”) Fellow, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences with hundreds of publications. He also has a strong interest in the history and philosophy of science. His own laboratory evolution work is a central focus of the book. I am very grateful to Professor Lenski for taking time to assess Darwin Devolves. His comments will allow interested readers to quickly gauge the relative strength of arguments against the

Polar Bear Seminar: On Retracting — and Not Retracting — Errors 

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in a five-part series taking a closer look at Michael Behe’s arguments that polar bear genes experienced adaptive mutations that were damaging. Find the full seminar here. This concludes our seminar on polar bears in light of Michael Behe’s discussion of them in Darwin Devolves. The book is important, extending the frontiers of the argument for intelligent design, otherwise it wouldn’t justify this extended treatment. Answering Behe’s critics is important too, for the additional reason that their criticisms are almost all ill-founded, and have failed in seeking to besmirch Behe’s scholarship. With opponents of ID, this experience is all too familiar.  As noted in the first post in this series, there is one justified

Polar Bear Seminar: Why Behe Is Right

Editor’s note: This is the first installment of a five-part series taking a closer look at Michael Behe’s arguments that polar bear genes experienced adaptive mutations that were damaging. Find the full seminar here. Critics of intelligent design in the little world of anti-ID blogging have fastened onto an exciting meme. The idea is that biochemist Michael Behe made egregious errors about polar bears in Darwin Devolves and in his subsequent posts at Evolution News arguing with critics. Scientists including Nathan Lents, Arthur Hunt, Jerry Coyne, Joshua Swamidass, and Richard Lenski have been promoting this meme. They complain that Behe refuses to acknowledge and retract his errors. Of course, real errors should be corrected, whether by Behe or anyone else. However, a closer

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