Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Revised 2006.
Behe’s book, Darwin’s Black Box is one of the most well-known works in the Creation-evolution debate, and is largely responsible for the resurgence of the Intelligent Design movement. Behe’s book centers on scientific questions that I am not credentialed to discuss directly, but I will assume his understanding of molecular biology, in part because I have never seen a criticism on this part of his work.
Analysis: Behe in many ways is misunderstood by both the Christian and atheistic communities. Here are the ideas I consider most important for understanding Behe.
• Behe’s work is highly technical, this is in part intentional, he does not water down the debate because he wants you to realize the complexity of the operations he is discussing. On the downside, I read numerous pages (not paragraphs) several times to make sure I grasped the point he was making.
• Behe’s method identifies elements of molecular biology that he states cannot be explained by Darwin’s theory, because they consist of irreducibly complex mechanisms that must meet a standard of minimal function. The term irreducible is a key to the argument – Behe compares these biological structures to complex machines, and the pieces must have developed in an integrated manner that defies neo-darwinian theory. The most common example cited is that of a mouse trap: there are five pieces to a mousetrap, and if any piece is missing, you don’t have a less effective mousetrap, you have a non-functioning one. (this is as simplified as his argument can be made without breaking the argument).
• Behe appears to accept both evolutionary theory, and many of the principles accepted by modern geologists. In a sense, while Behe is usually understood as disproving evolution. However, most likely he is indicating that evolution is insufficient to understand the origins of life without the intervention of an intelligent designer. Thus, his work is useful for our purposes, but also for someone who accepts theistic evolution. In this sense, Behe is re-presenting the argument from design for the modern world.
Conclusions: This work is a must read for Christians. I don’t spend a great deal of time on the classical philosophical arguments for God (though they are on the long term list), but the argument for design is valuable. Behe’s book is useful in bringing this argument up to date for modern times. The key caveat is that his assumptions are different from those of us who oppose evolution; while he works with the definition of science, his work on this front is not complete. Therefore we should consider his work to be useful, but something like Ken Ham’s The Lie is a necessary supplement.