CALVINISM–from Darwin’s Black Box, by Michael Behe

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It seems to be characteristic of the human mind that when it sees a black box in action, it imagines that the contents of the box are simple. A happy example is seen in the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes”. Calvin is always jumping in a box with his stuffed tiger, Hobbes, and traveling back in time, or “transmogrifying” himself into animal shapes, or using it as a “duplicator” and making clones of himself. A little boy like Calvin easily imagines that a box can fly like an airplane (or something), because Calvin doesn’t know how airplanes work. In some ways, grown-up scientists are just as prone to wishful thinking as little boys like Calvin. For example, centuries ago it was thought that insects and other small animals arose directly from spoiled food. This was easy to believe, because small animals were thought to be very simple (before the invention of the microscope, naturalists thought that insects had no internal organs.) But as biology progressed and careful experiments showed that protected food did not breed life, the theory of spontaneous generation retreated to the limits beyond which science could not detect what was really happening. In the nineteenth century that meant the cell. When beer, milk, or urine were allowed to sit for several days in containers, even closed ones, they always became cloudy from something growing in them. The microscopes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries showed that the growth was very small, apparently living cells. So it seemed reasonable that simple living organisms could arise spontaneously from liquids. The key to persuading people was the portrayal of the cells as “simple.” One of the chief advocates of the theory of spontaneous generation during the middle of the nineteenth century was Ernst Haeckel, a great admirer of Darwin and an eager popularizer of Darwin’s theory. From the limited view of cells that microscopes provided, Haeckel believed that a cell was a “simple little lump of albuminous combination of carbon,” not much different from a piece of microscopic Jell-O. So it seemed to Haeckel that such simple life, with no internal organs, could be produced easily from inanimate material. Now, of course, we know better. Here is a simple analogy: Darwin is to our understanding of the origin of vision as Haeckel is to our understanding of the origin of life. In both cases brilliant nineteenth-century scientists tried to explain Lilliputian biology that was hidden from them, and both did so by assuming that the inside of the black box must be simple. Time has proven them wrong. In the first half of the twentieth century, the many branches of biology did not often communicate with each other.  As a result genetics, systematics, paleontology, comparative anatomy, embryology, and other areas developed their own views of what evolution meant. Inevitably, evolutionary theory began to mean different things to different disciplines; a coherent view of Darwinian evolution was being lost. In the middle of the century, however, leaders of the fields organized a series of interdisciplinary meetings to combine their views into a coherent theory of evolution based on Darwinian principles. The result has been called the “evolutionary synthesis,” and the theory called neo-Darwinism. Neo-Darwinism is the basis of modern evolutionary thought. One branch of science was not invited to the meetings, and for good reason: it did not yet exist. The beginnings of modern biochemistry came only after neo-Darwinism had been officially launched. Thus, just as biology had to be reinterpreted after the complexity of microscopic life was discovered, neo-Darwinism must be reconsidered in light of advances in biochemistry. The scientific disciplines that were part of the evolutionary synthesis are all nonmolecular. Yet for the Darwinian theory of evolution to be true, it has to account for the molecular structure of life. It is the purpose of this book to show that it does not.

Behe, Michael J. (2001-04-04). Darwin’s Black Box (Kindle Locations 408-437). Simon & Schuster, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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