The Biochemical Evidence for Evolution


m ichael J. Behe is perhaps best known as the author of Darwin's Black Box (1996). But I know Mike Behe as a biochemist and a scientific colleague; we are both interested in DNA structures. I first heard of Behe more than 20 years ago, when I was a graduate student in a biophysical chemistry group and Behe had co-authored a paper about a form of DNA called Z-DNA (Behe and Felsenfeld 1981). (The paper was famous, to some of us, because it meant Z-DNA might be more likely to occur within living cells.) In 1997, one of my students told me about a biochemistry professor who had written a book showing that complicated biochemical systems were "intelligently designed" and could not have evolved. I had no idea that the book was written by the same Michael Behe.

Both Phillip Johnson and Behe claim that none of the reviewers of Darwin's Black Box found fault with the science. "The reviewers say what I knew they would say: Behe's scientific description is accurate, but his thesis is unacceptable because it points to a conclusion that materialists are determined to avoid," claims Johnson (Dembski and Kushiner 2001, 38). In the same edited volume Behe agrees with this claim: "the reviewers are not rejecting design because there is scientific evidence against it, or because it violates some flaw of logic. Rather I believe they find design unacceptable because they are uncomfortable with the theological ramifications of the theory" (100).

Interested readers should look carefully through some of the reviews of Behe's book and decide for themselves whether his statement is true. (See, for example, Coyne 1996, Orr 1997, Doroit 1997, Ussery 1999.) More-recent discussions on both sides of the topic appear in the April 2002 issue of Natural History and Pennock's (2001) edited collection. Kenneth Miller (1999) argues that Behe's irreducible complexity fails the biochemistry test. Miller, like Behe, is a Catholic. But contrary to Behe, Miller rejects intelligent design as a scientific theory because there is scientific evidence against it and also because of flawed logic; his arguments are by no means the result of his opposition to the theological implications.

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