Darwin’s Black Box, 25 years on. My 1997 review.

A quarter a century ago I was asked to review Darwin’s Black Box by Michael Behe for Science and Christian Belief. I was keen to do so, as some Young Earthers were raving about it.

Darwin's Black Box : The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution - Michael J.  Behe [Paperback], Books & Stationery on Carousell

An so I read about mouse traps,

Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University

blood clotting,  and other things in Behe’s book. i was not convinced and felt it would not survive and soon be forgotten. I was wrong. For the next five years or so ID made in-roads and got the support of philosophers  but not biologists and geologists. I’m still wondering how glacial moraines are intelligently designed.

Here is my review, and there is little I would change after 25 years.



Normally reviews get no response, but the editor of Science and Christian Belief got a flurry of letters, including one from Dr Emyr MacDonald of Cardiff University. He was very critical of me and the editor published his letter and my response, which came out in 1998.


After this I delved into ID along with my studies on Darwin’s geology and also considered Buckland’s wonderful stuff on design with “old Scratch” aka megatherium,


along with his work on glaciation. However hard I tried I could never find a convincing case for ID and noted that the Intelligent Design activists were charging up a cul-de-sac dragging too many non-YEC evangelicals with them. Perhaps their refusal to commit themselves on the age of the earth made them ultimately acceptable to no one.

In the last quarter century ID has convinced no one of significance, yet their activists still come out with similar arguments and, of course, the Cambrian explosion. But that is another story.

2 thoughts on “Darwin’s Black Box, 25 years on. My 1997 review.

  1. Paul Braterman

    Intelligent Design is an idea whose time has gone. For a briefmoment, it appeared tosome to be an intelletually respeableform of creationism,but now, AFAIK, it is no longer invoked outside the small circle of the Discovery Institute and its handful of devotees. Meantime, Behe has been busy painting himself into an ever tighter corner,as shown, for example, in the scientificreaction to his most recent book: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/books/2019/02/07/darwin-devolves/

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rjdownard

    One thing that may be said with certainty regarding Behe’s concepts specifically and Intelligent Design more generally is that over the last 25 years they have failed completely to gain any traction in the regular scientific world. They continue to be popular buzzwords in the antievolution community, of course, in the same way John Sanford’s “Genetic Entropy” does for Young Earth Creationism, but no working scientists has to my knowledge made any substantive breakthroughs based on the propositions (including botanist Richard Buggs, whose been flirting with ID from the edges for some years now, even coauthoring a paper with IDer–and YECer–Paul Nelson in 2016). The giddy enthusiasm of ID pioneers in the 1990s, expecting the Darwinian edifice to collapse in short order, has proven thoroughly unwarranted, and is starting to look as intractably counter-factual as evangelical Trump supporters insisting 45 is still POTUS.



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