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The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinismby Michael J Behe
Synopses & Reviews
When Michael J. Behe's first book, Darwin's Black Box, was published in 1996, it launched the intelligent design movement. Critics howled, yet hundreds of thousands of readers — and a growing number of scientists — were intrigued by Behe's claim that Darwinism could not explain the complex machinery of the cell.
Now, in his long-awaited follow-up, Behe presents far more than a challenge to Darwinism: He presents the evidence of the genetics revolution — the first direct evidence of nature's mutational pathways — to radically redefine the debate about Darwinism.
How much of life does Darwin's theory explain? Most scientists believe it accounts for everything from the machinery of the cell to the history of life on earth. Darwin's ideas have been applied to law, culture, and politics.
But Darwin's theory has been proven only in one sense: There is little question that all species on earth descended from a common ancestor. Overwhelming anatomical, genetic, and fossil evidence exists for that claim. But the crucial question remains: How did it happen? Darwin's proposed mechanism — random mutation and natural selection — has been accepted largely as a matter of faith and deduction or, at best, circumstantial evidence. Only now, thanks to genetics, does science allow us to seek direct evidence. The genomes of many organisms have been sequenced, and the machinery of the cell has been analyzed in great detail. The evolutionary responses of microorganisms to antibiotics and humans to parasitic infections have been traced over tens of thousands of generations.
As a result, for the first time in history Darwin's theory can be rigorously evaluated. The results are shocking. Although it can explain marginal changes in evolutionary history, random mutation and natural selection explain very little of the basic machinery of life. The "edge" of evolution, a line that defines the border between random and nonrandom mutation, lies very far from where Darwin pointed. Behe argues convincingly that most of the mutations that have defined the history of life on earth have been nonrandom.
Although it will be controversial and stunning, this finding actually fits a general pattern discovered by other branches of science in recent decades: The universe as a whole was fine-tuned for life. From physics to cosmology to chemistry to biology, life on earth stands revealed as depending upon an endless series of unlikely events. The clear conclusion: The universe was designed for life.
With Behe's book, the theory of intelligent design finally has its masterwork, a comprehensive scientific statement that draws the line between random and non-random mutation in nature, arguing that random mutation plays only a minor role in evolutionary change.
In this tour de force of evidence and logic, Michael Behe draws on the most extensive and detailed genetic studies available - - concerning the genomes both of human beings and of our worst diseases, especially malaria - - to reveal a stunning fact: Darwin's theory of common descent is decisively proven, but his mechanism of random mutation and natural selection is woefully, irrefutably insufficient to account for the evolution of life on earth. With The Edge of Evolution, the theory of intelligent design finally has its masterwork, a comprehensive scientific statement that draws the line between random and non-random mutation in nature; defines the principles by which Darwinism evolution can be distinguished from designl fits design theory together with the findings of cosmology, chemistry, and physics into an overarching theory of the universe; and lays out a research program, with predictions, to counter the failed predictions of Darwin's enthusiasts.
The Edge of Evolution is certain to be one of the most controversial books of science published in years. Critics have dismissed design theory as mere disguised creationism, and claimed that it is unscientific and/or just another "God of the gaps" argument, yet they cannot say the same about Behe's new work. Studies of DNA have revealed the various types and rates of mutation. That information, combined with population sizes, makes it possible to define the mathematical limits of Darwinism - - and they are radically circumscribed. Extrapolating from studies of malaria, E Coli, HIV, and the human genome, to the entire history of life on earth, proves that random mutation plays only a minor role in evolutionary change.
About the Author
Michael J. Behe is a Professor of Biological Science at Lehigh University, where he has worked since 1985. From 1978 to 1982 he did postdoctoral work on DNA structure at the National Institutes of Health. From 1982 to 1985 he was Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Queens College in New York City. He has authored more than forty technical papers, but he is best known as the author of Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. He lives near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with his wife and nine children.
Table of Contents
1. The Elements of Darwinism
2. Arms Race or Trench Warfare?
3. The Mathematical Limits of Darwinism
4. What Darwinism Can Do
5. What Darwinism Can't Do
7. The Two-Binding-Sites Rule
8. Objections to the Edge
9. The Cathedral and the Spandrels
10. All the World's a Stage
Appendix A — I, Nanobot
Appendix B — Malaria Drug Resistance
Appendix C — Assembling the Bacterial Flagellum
Appendix D — The Cardsharp
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