Darwin's Black Box
Behe admits to Catholic heritage in a Biochemistry ambiance; as such, from the very first, he writes with one hand tied behind his back. The biological metaphysician in Behe is the Creationist in evidential critique of Darwin’s evolutionary theory.
Science conceived the idea of cellular existence about the same time as Darwin’s evolutionary concept. Darwin could not have had access to Behe’s considerable library on cellular structure, to advanced molecular knowledge, nor even to have been fully cognizant of contemporaneous theoreticians Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, who concluded: “cells compose the entire bodies of animals and plants, and that in some way the cells are individual units with a life of their own.” Behe continues: “Schleiden and Schwann worked in the early to middle 1800s—the time of Darwin’s travels and writing of The Origin of Species.”
Behe assigns Darwin’s theory to a ‘Black Box’ of unanswered questions. Hastily denigrating Darwin’s broadly based theory, Behe created a few ‘Black Boxes’ of his own: to wit, the perception of ‘irreducible complexity’ in cellular development, even when such complexity can be reduced further, to the very least atomic particle and to atomic affinity toward symbiosis. He posits: “The last remaining box was the cell, which was opened to reveal molecules—the bedrock of nature.” But this writer, Ben Winter, disagrees; for the bedrock of nature rests not in molecules but in the existence of single atoms—and these are somehow composed of, or effected by, subatomic particles, and these by unknown energy incentives. Basic biochemistry understanding must perceive the assembly of two or more atoms to constitute molecular creation. ‘Hydrogen atoms’ are the most abundant element in the universe, used in synthetic ammonia and methanol production, in petroleum refining, and in organic materials hydrogenation. ‘Oxygen atoms’ constitute 21 percent of the atmosphere by volume and occur as a diatomic gas in many compounds such as water and iron ore. It combines with many elements and is essential for plant and animal respiration--needed for most combustion types. Within hydrogen and oxygen qualities rests the propensity to create water; all it takes is two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom to create a molecule of water—even so, a catalyst is necessary to instigate condensation into appreciable perception. Thus we gain insight into molecular development; notwithstanding, all other molecules result from different atom combinations.
Admitted by Behe: “Black Boxes sometimes occur within Black boxes:. . . sometimes the new boxes demand that we revise all of our theories.” Thus, Darwin cannot be the only theorist creating Black Boxes without detailed resolution. Gathering postulates from eminent theorists over the years, as witness to his opinion of how he envisions life to have unfolded, Behe quotes the Santa Fe Institute’s Stuart Kauffman; who champions: “the tendency of complex systems to arrange themselves in patterns—and not natural selection: Darwin and evolution stand astride us, whatever the mutterings of creation scientists. But is the view right? Better, is it adequate? I believe it is not. It is not that Darwin is wrong, but that he got hold of only part of the truth.” Thus, grudgingly, quasi-evolution intrudes in Behe-Kauffman word manipulation as they supplant evolution theory and accredit molecular transformation to composite workings from ‘intelligent design.’ We quote further: “Yet, for the Darwinian theory of evolution to be true, it has to account for the molecular structure of life. It is the purpose of this book to show that it does not.”
Of course, Darwin could not explain molecular structure; of course, the knowledge and biochemistry tools available today were not present in Darwin’s day!
A fault is found in Behe’s consensus that ‘Natural Selection’ is unworthy to account for the ‘irreducible complexity’ common to cellular development. But, contrary to Behe’s narrow view, the ‘irreducible complexity’ found in cellular development does not obviate a chance for change brought about by the ‘Natural Selection’ processes. Behe strains at a gnat and swallows a camel. Realistically, cells contain many thousands of atoms, residue from the combinations furnished by many other 10,000s of atoms, in a quantum transformation processes to ultimate workability via inherent attraction.
Behe questions: “What type of biological system could not be formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications”? He answers with ‘irreducibly complexity’ as definition: “a system . . . wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” In Darwin’s Black Box accusation, Behe uses mechanical devices (mousetrap, bicycle, etc.) to demonstrate the malfunction of objects minus a component part. And to be sure, the cell in intermediate stages is dysfunctional to its ultimate workability. The mousetrap without spring and bicycle without pedals compares with a cell minus its last stage of development. But the former are manmade, without the inherent propensity essence. Hydrogen and Oxygen have the inherent propensity to produce water—without creature influence. By repeatable experiment, we know this to be Hydrogen and Oxygen properties an essence. Might we not conclude, the same propensity exists in other atomic essence? Gold ore does not appear as an initial occurrence, but gold atoms have the propensity to assimilate under the right conditions—into grains, nuggets, and threads of metal. The B cell antibody mimics atomic attraction, its ‘Y’ extension from cell body construction, on its split extension, is so configured as to fit the shape of encountered objects (bacteria), and thus bond—which B cell then replicates its antibody properties. And does the human brain not resemble polypeptide evolvement folded into quaternary structure? We find much resemblance in visible assemblies and microbiology. Does not a polypeptide endure the same fold around its backbone as a developing fetus?
Behe demonstrates the cell to be a molecular machine, mostly composed of interacting proteins. On page-144, Figure 7-1, we find molecular steps in the production of AMP, a mononucleotide found in cells. First, a composite molecule begins the processes with a conglomerate assembly of carbon, oxygen, and phosphorus (properly bonded in number to host atoms). Thus we begin an incredibly complex system of atom substrates addition and subsequent discard of no longer needed atom components. Evolvement, from one stage to another, where named energizers motivate yet other atom composition; it is from this composition whereby additional atoms install and prepare for the next stage, notwithstanding discard of those previously added but no longer needed atoms in the nucleate. A dozen sequenced diagrams illustrate Behe’s ‘irreducible complexity.’ Whoa! Irreducible?
Behe defines Darwin’s evolution as “a process whereby life arose from nonliving matter and subsequently developed entirely by natural means.” In premise, Behe posits a propositional truism: ‘an absence of journalistic evidence constitutes an absence of scientific viability.’ Surely, the anomaly only means discovery has not been forthcoming.
Contrary to Behe bias, the AMP production, similar in complexity to other molecular designs, cannot be separated from Darwin’s larger scale hypotheses; for, molecular development also derives from nonliving matter and is subsequently developed entirely by natural means!
Creationism appeals to majority intellect; and often, Evolution paints its own evil contrast to Creation purity. But such represents mere exercise to placate metaphysical convictions and thus a confederation relish enjoyed by majority consensus. After all, Michael J. Behe was a Catholic first, a Biologist second, and an Apologist third. It makes little sense for Behe to bash Darwin’s evolution theory, in light of his own AMP molecular development living side by side with Darwin’s evolutionary processes, and without contradiction. In THE GREAT DECEPTION: Symbols And Numbers Clarified, author Ben Winter, detailed agreement is shown in time-sequenced amelioration of Biblical, Astrophysical, Geological, Biological, and Evolutional measurements. Further, a biblical Ten Ages existence, as metaphysical Covenant measure, incorporates the entire physical and metaphysical measure in a scripture correlation with mass, time, and space.
In the interest of science, Behe devised an understandable biochemistry lesson, involving ‘irreducible complexity,’ and contributing much to my own enlightenment. Ben Winter recommends this book as means for the modest intellect to understand how living creatures derive from quantum incentives. Evolution, or ‘Intelligent Design,’ then, remains unresolved and left to individual determination.