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Mike Behe on a new journal paper admitting that Darwinian evolution can’t do complex systems

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The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism

They advocate “neutral evolution” instead.

Behe, a biochemist and author of Edge of Evolution comments on an expanded version of a short essay called “Irremediable Complexity?” featuring prominent evolutionary biologist W. Ford Doolittle as an author. The short version was published last year in Science – the expanded version is in IUBMB Life.:

“Irremediable Complexity” (9 August 2011)

the gist of the paper is this. The authors think that over evolutionary time, neutral processes would tend to “complexify” the cell. They call that theoretical process “constructive neutral evolution” (CNE). In an amusing analogy they liken cells in this respect to human institutions:

Organisms, like human institutions, will become ever more ”bureaucratic,” in the sense of needlessly onerous and complex, if we see complexity as related to the number of necessarily interacting parts required to perform a function, as did Darwin. Once established, such complexity can be maintained by negative selection: the point of CNE is that complexity was not created by positive selection. (1)

In brief, the idea is that neutral interactions evolve serendipitously in the cell, spread in a population by drift, get folded into a system, and then can’t be removed because their tentacles are too interconnected. It would be kind of like trying to circumvent the associate director of licensing delays in the Department of Motor Vehicles — can’t be done.

The authors  want to avoid claiming the unbelievable – that Darwinian evolution can evolve complex systems by accident, and the authors hope neutral evolution can do it. The same way bureaucracy improves systems by complexifying them. Behe responds,

Is this a reasonable hypothesis? I don’t mean to be unkind, but I think that the idea seems reasonable only to the extent that it is vague and undeveloped; when examined critically it quickly loses plausibility. The first thing to note about the paper is that it contains absolutely no calculations to support the feasibility of the model. This is inexcusable. The mutation rates of various organisms — viral, prokaryotic, eukaryotic — are known to sufficient accuracy (5) that estimates of how frequently the envisioned mutations arrive could have been provided. The neutral theory of evolution is also well-developed (6), which would allow the authors to calculate how long it would take for the postulated neutral mutations to spread in a population. Yet no numbers — not even back-of-the-envelope calculations — are provided. Previous results by other workers (7-9) have shown that the development of serendipitous specific binding sites between proteins would be expected to be quite rare, and to involve multiple mutations. Kimura (6) showed that fixation of a mutation by neutral drift would be expected to take a looong time. Neither of these previous results bodes well for the authors’ hypothesis.


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I agree about the new site. My biggest complaint is that it doesn't show the number of comments for the posts that are half-sized on the home page. No quite sure why. But it's a big leap forward! uoflcard
Behe is very overrated. Eric Rothschild took him apart in Dover. At the end of the day, he'll more likely be remembered in the legal field than the scientific, purely because Rothschild's cross-examination of him was a classic that will be used in legal schools for a long time to come. Grunty
If mutations are a small part then what is the larger parts? BTW mutation/ variation is part of natural selection- by definition. Joseph
Ask you biologist if he thinks mutations are a necessary part of evolution. tribune7
I just want to say thank God for Mike Behe. Without him courageously sticking his neck out, ID wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as it has IMO. Otherwise, to the UD website designers, I'm really liking the recent changes. Finally got used to it. Like the color, pages load faster than ever, and the larger "recent comments" section is better too. lamarck
Oh wow that wasn't meant for you...what the heck jus t happen. Sorry ForJah
Ohh is baby upset because his evolutionary model is only possible in his imagination? ForJah
Indeed, with careful and expository language, Behe exposes both hubris and wishful thinking regarding a hypotheses that, quite likely, is as probalistically impotent as Evolution writ large: that the expansive and wonderful edifice decorating the mountain top can be achieved in reverse time by skipping lackadaisically down the gentle slope upon its side, which finds its blissful end at the proverbial warm little pond. And in so doing, has connotatively reduced “Irremediable Complexity” to “Irredeemable Credulity.” material.infantacy
Indeed, there are lots of similarities in evolution of organisms and that of human organizations, technologies, cultures,... But for all of those instances for which the mechanisms of evolution are transparent, they are clearly guided by intelligent, purposeful forces. For example, how did TSA adopt the X-ray machines for airports? Did a soda machine break down and by luck, somehow happened to turn into X-ray machine? All tens of thousands just broke down the same way, the same day and all become identical cat scanners? All at once. Or did someone in charge get paid big buck behind the scenes by the X-ray scanner manufacturers, the folks who designed those machines, to decide that public safety would benefit from them? Aren't they thus admitting that the one instance for which the mechanism is not known, is also driven by intelligent forces? The evolution of bureacracy may seem random only to someone from outside who doesn't know much about specific change, but behind each change there is plenty of intelligent activity (cunning, pursuit of self-interest, bribery,...) shaping the novelty in someone's mind before it is implemented in the matter-energy realm. If one applies the authors' analogy to this aspect, to them the biological evolution would appear random because so little is known and understood about the underlying mechanisms. nightlight
Behe is so wonderfully and academically snarky. lol. tragic mishap
I'm confused because whenever I speak with a Biologist from school he always tells me that Mutations play a small part in evolution. I have had two professors tell me this, and that confuses me because ID advocates keep bringing up mutations as the key mechanism...and the natural selection acting on them. That doesn't seem to be how it works in evolution to them...can someone explain this to me? ForJah
I see another Darwinian just-so story developing here: the scientific basis for the necessity of big government. CannuckianYankee
... to state that more precisely, they implode because they have destroyed their host. Ilion
And then they implode and destroy their host. Ilion
"The same way bureaucracy improves systems by complexifying them." Uh, bureaucracies are not improved by their complexification. They became bloated and inefficient and basically despicable. mike1962
On an related note showing how the members of the scientific establishment are unbiased and serious thinkers who simply follow the facts to where they lead: Global Warming May Cause Alien Attack Says PSU Pundit. tribune7
But alas, if, as Darwinists are fond of saying, Darwinian evolution is as well established as gravity why in blue blazes do they need to offer such a flimsy 'new' hypothesis as to how complexity might be gained??? bornagain77
Perhaps Behe ought to post here himself so that comments can be addressed directly to him. Grunty

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