Darwin's Black Box - Michael J. Behe and Intelligent Design

Laura

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I just finished this book today and want to bring it to the attention of forum members as very important! After all the evolutionary biology and genetics studies I've read over the past year or so, this brought everything home in a serious way; Behe goes into the details.

The copy I have is the 10th anniversary edition and includes an afterword chapter that deals with all the attack the book came under after its original publication; very useful information to have. He also sums up the situation:

"The rise of the intelligent design hypothesis is not due to anything I or any other individual has written or said, but to the great advance of science in understanding life. In Darwin's day, the cell was though to be so simple that first-rate scientists such as Thomas Huxley and Ernst Haeckel could seriously think that it might arise spontaneously from sea mud, which would be quite congenial to Darwinism. Even just fifty years ago it was a lot easier to believe that Darwinian evolution might explain the foundation of life, because so much less was known. But as science quickly advanced and the astonishing complexity of the cell became clear, the conclusion of intelligent design is strengthened by each new example of elegant, complex molecular machinery or system that science discovers at the foundation of life. ... It is a hard fact that the scientific case for the intelligent design hypothesis is getting much stronger." (p. 271)

And he's absolutely right. I can remember being presented with the topic of how the ribosome works years ago in biology classes. What was known about it then was much less than what is known now, but even then, I sat back and thought about it and realized that here was something that was impossible to conceive of as an "evolutionary product."

Right now, after finishing this book, I can say that the one thing that kept going through my mind as I read the "details" where the devil resides, is the incomprehensible intelligence behind the design of life. I really do urge everyone to read this book if only for that impression, alone.

This book, and all the recent science reading discussed here on the forum has only strengthened the Cassiopaean representation of reality and densities and so forth. Behe doesn't even speculate about "the designer" though he thinks it is a project worthy of scientific attention. But here we are with an explanation of our reality and other realities that is more or less a set of categories into which all this recent research rather neatly fits. And another thing that kept running through my mind was the thought that such intelligences might not always be benevolently inclined toward humans, so its not a bad idea to know what one is up against. It gives all new meaning to the Cs description of 4D battles being perceived by us as "weather and earth changes and cosmic phenomena."

As I said, the book is about the details and there's not too much I can say here to explain all that; it's a book best read individually and then, when enough people are "in the know", can be discussed in short hand, so to say.

Just an awesome book.
 

aragorn

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Very interesting! As it happens, yesterday I started again reading The 5th Option by Bryant M. Schiller. I think I've started reading this book something like three times, but I've never finished it. The idea of finally read the whole thing 'popped' into my mind just before Christmas, and I've decided to read it during the holidays. The whole topic OoL (origins of life) is IMO the most interesting one of all topics, and it feels like gaining more understanding regarding this might 'unlock' understanding in many other areas of life, too.

I'm saying all this, since Schiller's book (that I know many of you have read) seems to be dealing with the same issues that the book Laura mentions, so I'm definitely going to check out Darwin's Black Box.
 

genero81

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I've already ordered it. I noticed an excerpt is available on Kindle, so I can get started on it.
 

Laura

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Very interesting! As it happens, yesterday I started again reading The 5th Option by Bryant M. Schiller. I think I've started reading this book something like three times, but I've never finished it. The idea of finally read the whole thing 'popped' into my mind just before Christmas, and I've decided to read it during the holidays. The whole topic OoL (origins of life) is IMO the most interesting one of all topics, and it feels like gaining more understanding regarding this might 'unlock' understanding in many other areas of life, too.

I'm saying all this, since Schiller's book (that I know many of you have read) seems to be dealing with the same issues that the book Laura mentions, so I'm definitely going to check out Darwin's Black Box.
You'll probably have more success with DBB than Shiller which is good as far as it goes, but long and tedious.
 

aragorn

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You'll probably have more success with DBB than Shiller which is good as far as it goes, but long and tedious.
To my disappointment, I have to admit that you're right. I've now reached ca page 200 in Schiller's book, and I just have to give up reading it. His book would seriously need a good editor – there's just too much repetition, "mulling" and "sorting things out as he writes", and it's frustrating me to death right now! I sincerely would have liked this book to bee good, since I'm very interested in the topic, but I simply don't see the point in investing any more time on reading his "mullings". The first 100 pages or so were very interesting, and worth the time, but after that it just got more and more tedious. I admire Schiller's endeavor, and I guess The 5th Option is kinda his life work, that he has been writing for decades...but since there are better opuses that deal with the same topic with more 'bang for the buck' I'm sure, I've decided to put it back on the book shelf. :-(

I'm gonna download Behe's DBB on my Kindle in a minute, and start reading... :lkj:
 

Windmill knight

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I'm gonna download Behe's DBB on my Kindle in a minute, and start reading...
To add to the sale pitch of DBB, I'll say that I started reading it just a couple of days ago and I'm already on 25% on the kindle - and I'm a slow reader. It's fascinating and entertaining so far, and even the bits which are more technical I'm finding not that hard to get and mind-blowing. To borrow Laura's phrase: "furiously interesting".

I've read Evolution 2.0 and Genetic Enthropy, and it's pretty cool that all three books seem to have different, complementary arguments against Neodarwinism. There is a little repetition, but not that much. I too want to read the 5th Option at some point, but there's so much to read, and so little time! And I admit the size of that book on my shelf has intimidated me a bit.

One idea that stuck in my mind after reading the first 2 books is that the material world we live in is haunted - by life! In other words, the 'paranormal' (the intrusion of consciousness, information, or the non-material into the material) is all around us, it is living creatures themselves, we are it, and this is a rational, proven fact, for whomever takes the time to examine the problem carefully and with an open mind!

Now back to reading!
 

Gaby

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I'm in Chapter 7 and have read about subjects that I have studied multiple times in the past, i.e. the coagulation cascade and the immune system. I'm still amazed, as when reading similar recommended books, how it never crossed my mind of how all this came to be in the first place back then when I first studied these subjects. I think that in the past, as I studied the complexity of biological systems, classical Darwinian evolution explanations were boxed away in my brain as something that had nothing to do with the subject at hand. Still, it is mind boggling how thousands of researchers around the world breach such complex subjects on a daily basis and never ask the question: how this all came to be?
 

Joe

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Haven't read the book yet, but plan to. Checked out Behe's wikipedia page, and thought this part interesting in that it comes close to what the Cs say. It's not that all of life is 'intelligently designed' but that evolution can only get things so far, at which point some 'intelligent input' is necessary.

Behe calculates what he calls the "edge of evolution", i.e., the point at which Darwinian evolution would no longer be an efficacious agent of creative biological change, arguing that purposeful design plays a major role in the development of biological complexity, through the mechanism of producing "non-random mutations", which are then subjected to the sculpting hand of natural selection
 
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fabric

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I'm about a quarter of the way through the book and it really is furiously interesting! The complexity in something as 'simple' as cilia is pretty incredible. Actually any process when scaled down to the molecular level displays an intelligence and organization behind that goes far beyond the dictates of random chance.

I stumbled across this video, which I thought was very well done, explaining the steps on how messages get from the cell membrane into the nucleus. It's a pretty involved process. What amazes me is that this is happening, throughout your whole life 24/7 in 100s of trillions of cells - and not only that, they need to get it right, so we're talking a 99.9999999% accuracy rate (perhaps even higher) or incomplete or wrong information is transmitted and a cascade of errors would eventually lead to the death of the organism (cancer being an example).

 

Laura

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Just a heads up that Behe has a new book coming out on February: Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA That Challenges Evolution. https://smile.amazon.com/Darwin-Devolves-Science-Challenges-Evolution/dp/0062842617/ Sounds like it might develop some of Sandford's ideas (pretty sure he and Behe are friends).
Behe also has a second book, after DBB entitled "The Edge of Evolution". I finished it yesterday and it is a definite must read follow-upper! He goes into a number of things in more detail, including speculations about design itself, though he never crosses the line from being purely scientific. I like that.

https://www.amazon.com/Edge-Evolution-Search-Limits-Darwinism/dp/0743296222/ref=sr_1_1

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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 science 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.
There are a couple issues I take with his conclusions, mainly that a designer would have to be transcendent, or "outside" of the created universe. There's no real reason why that should be so as far as I can see. If cellular machinery can self-assemble, so could the Universe.
 

luc

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Behe also has a second book, after DBB entitled "The Edge of Evolution". I finished it yesterday and it is a definite must read follow-upper! He goes into a number of things in more detail, including speculations about design itself, though he never crosses the line from being purely scientific. I like that.
Oh great! BTW, having watched the documentary maiko posted above as well, Behe generally comes across as a super-likable and decent guy. The documentary also contains some fascinating stories about how the idea of intelligent design came about and the journeys of the "rogue" scientists who came to the conclusion - based purely on their scientific research! - that the orthodox Darwinian framework simply cannot possibly work.
 

annp

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I found a brief lecture Behe gave a few years ago - a capsule introduction into DBB. He notes the complexity of life requires an engineer / designer and refutes the notion of small evolutionary jumps leading to a functioning 'machinery', saying there are structural obstacles to Darwinian evolution.

 
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