Darwin Devolves

The New Science About DNA that Challenges Evolution

Michael J. Behe


Describes his early thoughts about life and how things came to be. The the story of his education and his faith, both of which were comfortable with an evolutionary development of life. Further education gave greater insight into the elegance and complexity of life. A major impact was reading Denton's "Evolution, A Theory in Crisis" He came to see great problems with the Darwinian picture and participated in discussions on Design as related more fully in Woodward's Doubts About Darwin. He wrote Darwin's Black Box and The Edge of Evolution.

PART I Problems

1. The Pretense of Knowledge

p15 Starts with example of polar bear, which might be presumed to be easy evolutionary steps from the brown bear, but upon examination the pathway involves mutations in 17 genes, about half the mutations damaged the function of the respective coded proteins.

p18 Discussion of what Darwin knew and didn't know compared to current study of DNA.

p21 Comparing to projecting economics, the 'structures of essential complexity' in biology are beyond our capacity. "concerns processes - many still unknown - that occur at the molecular level over thousands or millions of years" with multiple factors affecting them.

p21 "cloaked by a thick pretense of knowledge" Gives examples of attributing to evolution complex phenomena, when that attribution adds nothing to our knowledge. Calls them "red flag" examples.

  • p22 "Of course" - examples of description of phenomena attributed to evolution without warrant.
  • p25 "United Front" - defending Darwinism against multiple new proposals
  • p27-31 "The Principle of Comparative Difficulty" - for complex systems (p31) "we don't know where they will end up; we don't know why they end their either."

p27 Uses some of the switched advice on dietary items as examples.

p31 Levels of explanation

p33 Table of Levels of Explanation with discussion.

p33 "It is somewhere in the level of manageably irregular explanations that we begin to trade real knowledge for a pretense of it." (has used smoking and cancer and sickle-cell trait as examples)

p34 Discussion of "spandrels" citing Gould and Lewontin paper.

p35 Examples of complex adaptive systems, all of which involve living things.

p35-36 "In biology, patterns of mutations are the byproducts of the workings of extremely complex molecular machinery over generations, not necessarily the reverse."

p36 "like all other complex functional, purposeful arrangements, the stunning sophistication of the cell is best explained by an intelligent cause."

p37 About his first two books: "dealt primarily with the riddle of functional complexity in biology - that is, the need for multiple parts to cooperate with one another to accomplish some task. That's been a perennial migraine for Darwin's theory ..."

p37-38 "..as with the polar bear, Darwinian evolution proceeds mainly by damaging or breaking genes, which, counterintuitively, sometimes helps survival. In other words, the mechanism is powerfully devolutionary. It promotes the rapid loss of genetic information. Laboratory experiments, field research, and theoretical studies all forcefully indicate that, as a result, random mutation and natural selection make evolution self-limiting. That is, the very same factors that promote diversity at the simpler levels of biology actively prevent it at more complex ones. Darwin's mechanism works chiefly by squandering genetic information for short-term gain."

2. Fathomless Elegance

p39 Pursuing his parallel between economic forecasting and biologist who try to explain the development of living things, he gives humorous examples about how economic forecasting doesn't care about the details of mechanism, but the explanation of life's development requires the understanding of the basic mechanisms of change.

p41"..Aristotle, who is actually called the 'father of biology' .. interested ... in how nature works. "the insight that, to begin to understand nature, one has to go out and closely observe it - systematically and in detail" But our understanding was stuck at the level of surface observation for thousands of years. "For example, arteries and veins could be seen in dissected animal bodies. Yet the fact that they connected to each other through tiny capillaries in a closed circulatory system escaped even the great Roman surgeon Galen,who thought that blood was pumped out by the heart to sink into the tissues, much as water in irrigation canals in his day sank into the ground. His mistaken ideas were taught for thirteen hundred years."

p42 New tools can bring dramatic new discoveries.

  • p42 Leeuwenhock and his microscope discovered tiny living creatures such as amoebae and bacteria.
  • p42 Robert Hooke saw cells
  • p42 Marcello Malpighi observed red blood cells circulating in capillaries, showing circulation to be a closed loop.
  • p42 Matthias Schleiden and Theodor Schwann advance the cell theory of life.
  • p43 Electron microscopy with tagging schemes
  • p43 X-ray crystallography, NMR, MRI imaging.
  • p43 Adding computers for massive calculations and cataloging fills libraries with details about cellular life.

p44 His point was to build the base for discussing the exquisite systems of life.

PART II Theories

3. Synthesizing Evolution

4. Magic Numbers

5. Overextended


6. The Family Line

7. Poison-Pill Mutations

8. Dollo's Timeless Law

9. Revenge of the Principle of Comparative Difficulty

PART IV Solution

10 A Terrible Thing to Waste. The Family Line

Appendix: Clarifying Perspective

Reading Reference
Reasonable FaithR Nave
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