Re: Review of Darwin's Black Box (fwd)

Joel Cannon (
Thu, 10 Apr 1997 20:08:15 -0600 (CDT)

Earlier, Kieth Miller posted a notice of a review of Behe's book. I
passed the reference on to someone who passed it on to Behe, who
passed this response back to the someone who passed it back to it is. I am posting it with permission.

> A review of Behe's new book "Darwin's Black Box" just appeared in the
> journal "Trends in Ecology and Evolution," vol 12, no 4, p.162-163. It is
> written by Cavalier-Smith who has published on the evolution of biochemical
> systems and cellular structures. It is a very hard-hitting critique.
> Below is a sentence from the review (I would encourage those interested to
> obtain a copy of the full review).
> "Behe, ignorant of much of the literature, claims that no scientist has
> ever discussed the origin of vesicle targeting ( actually discussed in Ref.
> 3, not cited by Behe, though the most detailed one on the origin of
> eukaryotic biochemical properties) or protein translocation (see Refs 6 and
> 7, the most detailed discussion of the origin of the most basic complex
> cellular biochemical properties, which he deceitfully ignored despite
> citing the volume containing it as 'evidence' that no paper has ever been
> published on the subject!)."

> Joel,
> Following is Michael's reply to me:
> "Thanks for sending along this info--I hadn't seen the review.
> Cavalier-Smith is citing references that do not deal with the
> questions at a detailed biochemical level. In short, they mentally
> glide over difficulties which would be fatal for the system in the
> real world. They make statements like "system X developed because it
> would help the cell to do Y", without noticing the difficulties of
> making X by a blind process. It's like saying, "air conditioners
> developed to enable people to work indoors in the summertime." In my
> book (p. 68) I briefly discuss his explanation for the development of
> the cilium, essentially dismissing it as a "fuzzy word-picture", that
> isn't detailed enough for serious criticism. I would say the same
> thing about all of the other papers he cites in the review. In fact,
> in his review Cavalier-Smith says "For none of the cases mentioned by
> Behe is there yet a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the
> probable steps in the evolution of the observed complexity. The
> problems have indeed been sorely neglected..." I agree, but would say
> that without details, there is no Darwinian explanation, and my
> criticisms in DBB stand."
> Michael said you could post this response if you wish. Let me know
> how the others respond.
> I think many people miss the essence of Behe's challenge. One can
> say that "A developes into B which developes into C which. . ." and
> make it appear in the realm of theory that the Darwinian mechanism is
> the logical explanation. Still, could A, B, or C exist and
> propagate in the real world? Also, if "D" is irreducibly complex
> then one must explain "HOW" A, B, and C could develop in a step by
> step process and one must explain "WHY" such modifications or
> mutations would convey any advantage and thus be preserved.
> Beyond this we must stop talking about letters (A, B, C, etc.) and
> talk about specific biochemical systems and their intricacies.
> Behe's examples in his book of irreducibly complex biochemical
> systems won't perform their necessary functions if any of the system
> components are omitted. Still, they are very complex and seemingly
> defy the "HOW" and "WHY" questions I asked earlier. Intelligent
> Design offers one possible solution. Advocates of impersonal
> Darwinian chance often shout loudly about how perfect a solution it
> is, but are deafeningly silent on the particulars.
> Anyway, that's how I as an ignorant layman see it.
> Take care,
> Michael
> > From: Joel Cannon
> <>
> > Subject: Re: Review of Darwin's Black Box (fwd)
> > To: (Michael Neely)
> > Date: Wed, 2 Apr 1997 11:21:27 -0600 (CST)
> > Thanks for the note. If Behe writes a reply, you may want to ask him
> > if he would like me to post it to the ASA listserv.
> >
> > -------
> > Joel W. Cannon
> > Dept. of Physics
> > Centenary College of Louisiana
> > P. O. Box 41188
> > Shreveport, LA 71134-1188
> >
> > (318)869-5160
> > (318)869-5026 FAX
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Joel W. Cannon
Dept. of Physics
Centenary College of Louisiana
P. O. Box 41188
Shreveport, LA 71134-1188

(318)869-5026 FAX