Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Edge of Evolution

That's the title of Michael Behe's latest book. For those of you who aren't in the know, Behe wrote Darwin's Black Box in 1996, in which he argued that molecular machines are too complex to have evolved by natural selection. It was, and still is, a very important book in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement.

His new book has been reviewed by David E Levin, available at the NCSE website. The whole thing is worth reading, but I found this part especially interesting:

What is perhaps most remarkable about The Edge of Evolution is how much Behe now concedes to the evidence that supports Darwinian evolution. He not only accepts that life has existed on earth for billions of years, but that it has evolved over time. He now agrees with the Darwinian notion that all life on the planet "descended with modification from one stage to another." He even acknowledges that natural selection is the obvious mechanism by which adaptive gene variants spread through a population. It is difficult to imagine his core audience being receptive to this revised position. But at this point, Behe is stuck between the need to establish a semblance of scientific credibility and the desire to forward his distinctly unscientific creationist ideas.
Levin argues that the only thing Behe has left for God to do is act as a mutagen. Life can evolve all on it's own, but needs a little tinkering here and there.

Some things are not addressed in Levin's review, but they may be addressed in Behe's book. I haven't read it yet, but I would like to know if Behe suggests the first life form was "frontloaded" with all of the needed mutations for all of the life forms that were to follow. Or does Behe suggest that God intervenes whenever a mutation is needed? If that's the case, how does God accomplish these mutations? Are His interventions limited to just toying with DNA, or does he tinker in other ways?

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