Darwin’s Black Box

Evolution has always interested me, both as a theory and as a philosophy (some might even say faith). Science is basically just figuring out how the world and things in the world work, and I love that kind of stuff. It makes perfect sense to try and figure out where we came from using the tools of science if at all possible. I am, however, a believer in Yeshua (Jesus), and so the concept of intelligent design has a great appeal to me and is generally more the direction I tend to lean. So, given that I’ve read plenty of books on evolution in my lifetime (much of it required reading for school, I admit), I thought it would be beneficial for me to read one of the main books that started the ID movement – Darwin’s Black Box – the Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.

That, and I thought it’d be nice to demonstrate here that I do read non-fiction. Occasionally.

It’s important (and I think interesting) to note that this is not in any way shape or form a religious book. While a little research on the author (Michael J. Behe) reveals that he is Roman Catholic, he’s also been known to state publicly that he finds no problem with believing in both evolution and Christianity, and that intelligent design, to him, is not a religious issue at all. The book clearly reflects this idea – that a belief in intelligent design does not require a belief in God, or even a god.

The book therefore focuses not on the identity of a designer (although it is touched on briefly at the end of the 10th anniversary edition, only to point out that there are options available to those who wish to go with the ID theory but do not believe in God or anything “supernatural”) but on the evidence for design itself. Behe is a biochemist, and so he talks specifically about how at the very smallest levels of life, design is seen so strongly that it takes great leaps of faith to believe otherwise. He claims that while most of us can imagine say, a creature without a tail developing one through the small steps needed for mutation and natural selection to work, it’s a very different matter when you’re looking at the way blood clots and the exact cascade of precise tools needed for that to work properly.

As stated, Behe is a biochemist. This poses a slight problem in that he is primarily talking to people who are, well, not. He does his best to use analogies for “the rest of us”, but there are whole sections of the book that he has marked off with a note that some people may want to just skip it and leave it at “it’s complicated”. I did read the entire book, but there were sections where I read a page and then put down the book while my brain exploded for a while. A lot of it I probably still don’t fully grasp despite even the basic run down of biochemistry in the back of the book. I do recognize, however, that he didn’t want to dilute the material so much that he would be unable to prove his point to actual biochemists who understood what he was saying.

Even for us non-biochemists, though, the book has some interesting points and is obviously well written by someone who cares very much about being intellectually truthful – even when the evidence leads to unwanted conclusions. The book’s thoughts on irreducible complexity spurred the intelligent design movement on in a way that had not been seen before it was first published, and if you read the 10th anniversary edition you’ll see that Behe at least believes that the last ten years have only strengthened the theory further.

I really enjoyed the thoughts behind the book, even though it was hard to get through the technical examples at times. It’s non-offensive in an area where emotions are highly charged, and I think that in itself makes it worth reading – it’s nice to hear a reasonable voice appealing solely to logic and biochemical evidence. A refreshing book I’d recommend to anyone interested in evolution and intelligent design. 4 stars.

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