15 January, 2007

Book Review

Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe.

A very interesting writer, Behe; his thesis here is that because certain biochemical processes are of an irreducible complexity ~ that is, they have a number of factors, each of which is essential to the function or process ~ they point to an intelligent design at the origin of life. The idea is that, like a spring mousetrap (his explanatory image) these processes could only have been designed to work as a unit, as the trap without the trigger lever, for example, would be useless. A flagellum, for example, is a small biomechanical motor with several parts; if any of them, any one of the molecular elements, were not present, the flagellum would not flagellate. Behe is a convincing writer, though obviously writing to one side only of the evolution-creation argument; to his credit, though, he makes no claim about the identity of the Intelligent Designer. There are some questions that Behe appears to dodge, however, which are doubtless fully exploited by those on the other side of the argument. Among those are the possibility that it is merely that Behe hasn’t been able to think of a way that a flagellum could originate randomly and yet usefully at all stages; that would be evidence of Behe’s lack of imagination, rather than a designer. Another question is that surely, in some areas, the designs are rather less than perfect, so why would they have been sufficient for the designer? Overall, Behe’s argument seems to be a rehash of Paley’s proof of God from the watch found in the field, but on a more sophisticated level. Of course, i always found Paley’s argument fairly convincing; but then, i also don’t see a paradox in the Ontological Proof: That is convincing.