Books of interest Darwinism Evolution

A peek at Mike Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves

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While Stephen Colbert has called Michael J. Behe the “Father of Intelligent Design,” Behe’s arguments have been called, “close to heretical” by the New York Times Book Review, and Richard Dawkins has publicly taken him to task for his “maverick” views. Wherever he goes, Behe makes waves, but has remained singularly focused on doing rigorous scientific analysis that points to controversial but incredible results that other scientists won’t touch.

Twenty years after publishing his seminal work, Darwin’s Black Box, Behe shows that new scientific discoveries point to a stunning fact: Darwin’s mechanism works by a process of devolution, not evolution. On the surface, evolution can help make something look and act different, but it doesn’t have the ability to build or create anything at the genetic level.

Critically analyzing the latest research, Behe gives a sweeping tour of how modern theories of evolution fall short and how the devolving nature of Darwin’s mechanism limits them even further. If we are to get a satisfactory answer to how the most complex, stunning life-forms arose, it’s time to acknowledge the conclusion that only an intelligent mind could have designed life.

We’re told that the basic thesis is, The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution: Break or blunt any functional gene whose loss would increase the number of offspring.

You can preorder (February 26, 2019) and get a free extra chapter.

Lehigh University’s Mike Behe is, of course, also the author of Darwin’s Black Box (1996) and The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (2007)


Note: The book develops a paper Behe published in the Quarterly Review of Biology (2010),

Adaptive evolution can cause a species to gain, lose, or modify a function; therefore, it is of basic interest to determine whether any of these modes dominates the evolutionary process under particular circumstances. Because mutation occurs at the molecular level, it is necessary to examine the molecular changes produced by the underlying mutation in order to assess whether a given adaptation is best considered as a gain, loss, or modification of function. Although that was once impossible, the advance of molecular biology in the past half century has made it feasible. In this paper, I review molecular changes underlying some adaptations, with a particular emphasis on evolutionary experiments with microbes conducted over the past four decades. I show that by far the most common adaptive changes seen in those examples are due to the loss or modification of a pre-existing molecular function, and I discuss the possible reasons for the prominence of such mutations. – Michael J. Behe, “Experimental evolution, loss-of-function mutations, and “the first rule of adaptive evolution”,” The Quarterly Review of Biology 85, no. 4 (December 2010): 419-445. (paywall)


3 Replies to “A peek at Mike Behe’s new book Darwin Devolves

  1. 1
    aarceng says:

    Another example showing how common adaptive changes are due to the loss or modification of a pre-existing function.

    Recent research into the function of Light has revealed this is part of a system controlled by Switch. The purpose of Switch is to activate Light in response to appropriate external factors and deactivate it in response to other factors.

    Researchers have also identified two mutations of Switch; Switch1 and Switch0.

    Switch1 leaves Light permanently activated (on) and this has been found to be beneficial in coal mines and other dark places. Switch0 leaves Light permanently deactivated (off) and this too has been found to be beneficial in situations where energy consumption is critical.

    Opinion is divided however about the significance of these mutations. Theory A proponents are excited about these results saying they show the ability of systems involving Light to produce beneficial mutations to adapt to different environments. However Theory B proponents claim that both Switch1 and Switch0 are simply two cases of broken switches that can incidentally have beneficial effects in specific environments.

  2. 2
    gpuccio says:

    I’m really looking forward to reading Behe’s new book!

    And its subject seems really, really interesting and important.

    OK, maybe it can be appropriate to paste here a comment I made a couple of days ago in the information thread, at #560:

    NS is indeed a very limited process that “recycles” in slightly different forms the FI already existing in the reproducing organism.

    It appears to be an adaptive optimization of some aspects in some cases, but in reality it is only a variation of the general balance of some given functional program, that already existed, given maybe a few bits of information variation in the environment.

    So, bacteria can change in a limited repertoire that expresses in different modalities the same FI that already was in the bacterium. They can lose a little bit of information in a molecule to become resistant to an antibiotic in the environment, they can change their ability to control citrate metabolism under strong environmental stress, they can use some existing molecule to digest nylon instead of penicillin when nylon becomes suddenly abundant.

    All those “optimizations” are simply random variations in the global expression of a huge program with huge FI that essentially defines that specific organism as a specific form of living organism, an already existing designed program which goes on implementing its original function: to make the organism’s life possible and to make the organism survive and reproduce.

    Probably, the global FI in that organism does not really increase, even if there are very small local increases for locally defined functions, always in the range of those few bits that are allowed by the essential limits of the probabilistic resource involved in biologic RV.

    The true jumps in FI that we observe so often in natural history are instead always examples of new plans involving new functional configurations that change deeply and in a coordinated way the whole plan of the existing organisms, adding new proteins or deeply re-engineered proteins, new control networks, new structures, and so on, IOWs a completely different perspective that can only be implemented controlling hundreds, thousands and even millions of functional bits in the process (see for example the transition to vertebrates, involving about 1.7 millions of functional bits).

  3. 3
    asauber says:

    I just dropped a hint on Santa that he could pre-order this for me. 😉


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