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US hardback
Jun 2007
The Edge of Evolution
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Free Press
ISBN 0743296206
336 pp
The Edge of Evolution
by Michael Behe

This is the follow-up to Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box (1996), in which he argued from detailed examples of biological molecular chemistry that the conventional Darwinian mechanism of random mutation operated on by selection cannot explain the complex machinery of living cells and their interaction. Here, he extends his case further by delving into the mutational pathways revealed by modern genetic studies, which show Darwinian trial-and-error to be a crude and clumsy device capable at best of producing marginal changes in evolutionary development, and that bringing about the essential processes that underlie the living world is far beyond its reach. Too many things have to happen in precisely the right way, all at the same time to generate the transitions that the evidence records. Changes that depend on a single point mutation will easily be found by chance eventually, but where two or more are required, the improbability rockets exponentially with the number until even one of the seemingly simple solutions that are observed in endless variety would exhaust the resources of the universe before coming together through such means. Even in cases where the results of single mutations have been demonstrated to be real and beneficial in certain circumstances, it turns out that the mutations are invariably degenerative, arising from the loss of information from the genome, and cannot, therefore, be considered as contributing to an evolutionary path characterized by the progressive accumulation of genetic information.

The conclusion that seems to fit most squarely with the evidence is that changes are not random but occur in preferred directions as directed by cues from the environment. This implies that the "program" for turning an organism to a different one when the right conditions come into existence was already there in the genome, making it a vastly more complex affair than even that required to accomplish the stupefying intricacies uncovered to date. The finding is broadly in agreement with opinions expressed by other molecular biologists, not widely recognized in the mainstream, that most, if not all, of the examples of "evolution in action" generally attributed to Darwinian mutation-selection are more simply explained by the segregation of already-existing genes by breeding and other environmental factors, without any significant mutation taking place at all. The question this leaves unanswered, of course, is where the genes came from in the first place.

"Until the past decade and the genomics revolution, Darwin's theory rested on indirect evidence and reasonable speculation. Now, however, we have begun to scratch the surface of direct evidence, of which this book offers the best possible treatment. Though many critics won't want to admit it, The Edge of Evolution is very balanced, careful, and devastating. A tremendously important book."

-- Dr. Philip Skell, Evan Pugh Professor of Chemistry, Emeritus, at Pennsylvania State University, member of the National Academy of Sciences

"In crystal-clear prose Behe systematically shreds the central dogma of atheistic science, the doctrine of the random universe. This book, like the natural phenomena it so elegantly describes, shows the unmistakable signs of a very deep intelligence at work."

-- Jeffrey M. Schwartz, M.D., Research Psychiatrist, UCLA, author of The Mind & The Brain

"With this book, Michael Behe shows that he is truly an independent thinker of the first order. In a day when the media present all issues in the football metaphor as two teams fighting, the intelligent design debate is presented simplistically as authors who are lapdogs for young-earth creationists versus evolutionists who are lapdogs for atheists. Michael Behe is no lapdog. . . . This book will take the intelligent design debate into new territory."

-- Professor David Snoke, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pittsburgh

"Michael Behe carefully assesses the evidence of what Darwin's mechanism of random mutation and selection can achieve in well documented cases, and shows that even in those cases that maximize its power as a creative force it has only been able to generate very trivial examples of evolutionary change. Could such an apparently impotent and mindless force really have built the sophisticated molecular devices found throughout nature? The answer, he insists, is no. The only common-sense explanation is intelligent design."

-- Michael Denton, M.D., Ph.D., author of Nature's Destiny and Evolution: A Theory in Crisis

 
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