Edge of Evolution

by Brian 7. August 2010 21:40

I recently finished The Edge of Evolution by the author of Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe. Although I enjoyed the book and learned more about the debate; Behe will appear to readers to have wandered further into no man's land between literal Creationism and neo-Darwinism. As such, I suspect he will not find much company there. I say this realizing full well Intelligent Design (ID) from a theoretical standpoint is agnostic regarding the Designer and therefore wandering from Creationism is somewhat of a non sequitur. We have to remember the theory itself is coincidental to Behe’s theology, and his Christianity. Dembski’s explanatory filter, a core component of ID, is a mathematical approach to detecting design causation. We use it all of the time without even thinking about it. It’s when the filter is applied to microbiology things get dicey - and that is what ID proponents like Behe are trying to unravel. When skeptics conjoin ID and Creationism, the debate gets muddled – and that is what the critics are doing.

I went online to find a single reasonable critical review of the book and was disappointed by all of the ad hominem rubbish out there. As much as I don’t care for Dawkins, his review was the best I could find, and it was poor to say the least. The bottom line: There are gaps in the Darwinian synthesis. Darwinists say Behe appeals to God, and they appeal to current evidence and future scientific discovery. Behe appeals to probabilities too insurmountable for current Darwinian mechanisms to ever overcome, and says Darwinists wave-off the problem with “just-so” stories. Apart from Behe appealing to God (which he does not do in this book), both sides show verisimilitude. I just wish Darwinists would put forth a well-argued critique of work like Behe's instead of mere bad-mouthing.

Behe’s book read like a slight retreat from "Black Box" by moving the beachhead a little closer to orthodox Darwinism. I think everyone was a bit surprised by his position on common descent which is clearly more at home with Darwinists than many ID supporters. For those open to theology where the Creator front-loads design at the singularity, Behe’s view is workable. But integrating such a theology into the Christian worldview is not trivial. Where do material processes stop and design start? Behe tries to answer this question in the book by looking at real-world examples of evolution in action and showing how ineffectual material mechanisms are in obtaining significant change. His arguments are forceful, but not conclusive in my opinion. The real theological challenge remains open for Christians like myself. Where does episodic-supernaturalism end and God’s creative unfolding process begin.

 

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I am a Christian, husband, father of two daughters, an owner of ISC, lead architect of MapDotNet, armchair apologist and philosopher, writer of hand-crafted electronic music, and a kid around anything that flies (rockets, planes, copters, boomerangs, hot air baloons, lawn furniture)

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