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A Formidable Challenge to Evolution
on February 6, 2011
Michael Behe's notion of irreducibly complex systems presents a formidable challenge to evolution by natural selection. Behe discusses several such systems: Bombardier Beetle, cilium, flagellum, blood clotting system and the complement cascade which is involved in immunity, as well as the the molecular structure of cells and their various compartments. His idea is very simple, and he makes it even simpler by his mouse trap example. The mouse trap is an irreducibly complex system wherein the absence of one part results in the dysfunction of the rest of the other parts. So, if Darwin's idea of evolution entails piecemeal development by natural selection, how can it account for irreducibly complex systems? In his book "Living with Darwin", the philosopher of science Philip Kitcher admits that the notion of irreducible complexity is a major challenge to Darwinism and evolution. He unsuccessfully puts forward a counterargument. Darwin, as Behe rightly maintains in his book, based his theory on the gross examination of living organism, but recent advances in molecular biology puts his theory of evolution in a very difficult position.
I gave the book three stars just because I thought that it might have been a shorter book. The author spent too much time (Chap 3-7) discussing the different systems. It felt an overkill to me. Those five chapters could have been collapsed into one chapter in which he can briefly disucss those systems. Behe made his thesis very clear just by the example of the mouse trap. However, I didn't have to read those chapters since my background is in the health sciences and I understand the complexity of the different systems he talked about especially the blood clotting and complement systems as well as the cellular production of energy and the cell structure. Still the main thesis is very interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see how evolution by natural selection could be very plausibly challenged.