Two decades ago, in Darwin’s Black Box, Michael Behe flipped the conventional understanding that the evolutionary battle is one of science vs. faith. He showed scientifically that macro-evolution is a satisfactory explanation only for those who are true believers in the words of a 19th-century prophet. Now, in Darwin Devolves, Behe highlights new scientific discoveries that show how Darwin’s mechanism works by breaking down genes: devolution, not evolution
The Future Starts Now
To understand the profound inadequacy of Darwinism, we must first understand evolution’s foundation. Molecules are the basis of physical life. DNA, the carrier of genetic information, is itself a molecule. In turn DNA encodes another class of very complex molecules, proteins, which can join together to form literal machines—molecular trucks, pumps, scanners, and more—that carry out the work of the cell. Among other duties, those machines build the structural materials of everyday life, such as shells, wood, flesh, and bones, which also are all made of particular molecules carefully arranged in particular ways. So in order to more fully understand life, one must understand its molecular basis. The study of the molecular basis of life is the task of my own field, biochemistry.
Because molecules are the basis of life, they are also the basis of evolution. Mutations, the raw material for evolution, are changes in molecules—alterations of DNA and the proteins it codes for. For example, people with the sickle-cell gene have a simple change in their DNA that leads them to produce slightly altered hemoglobin and makes them resistant to malaria. People whose DNA has a small change in a gene dubbed OCA2 lose the ability to produce the molecular pigment melanin in their irises, turning their eyes blue. Most people who hear the word “evolution” probably think of fish with legs or dinosaurs with feathers. Yet they should think of proteins and DNA, because it is molecules that are the underpinnings of visible changes. To more fully understand evolution, one must understand its molecular basis, the biochemical level of life, which we’ll explore in subsequent chapters.
Most people who hear the word “evolution” probably think of fish with legs or dinosaurs with feathers. Yet they should think of proteins and DNA, because it is molecules that are the underpinnings of visible changes.
Through no fault of his own, Charles Darwin knew none of this. The science of the mid-nineteenth century was primitive compared to today’s. The very existence of molecules was still in doubt back then, and the cell, which we now know is filled with sophisticated molecular machinery, was thought to be made of a simple jelly called protoplasm. Perforce the Victorian naturalist was unaware of perhaps the central fact of biology: that heredity—a key prerequisite of his theory—is largely determined by an elaborate molecular code expressed through the intricate actions of hugely complex molecular machines. In the absence of such knowledge, Darwin hypothesized that hereditary traits were transmitted by nondescript theoretical particles he dubbed “gemmules,” which supposedly were shed by all parts of the body and somehow collected in the reproductive organs. Gemmules turned out to be wholly imaginary.
Although its components are often unwittingly conflated, Darwin’s theory of evolution is actually an amalgam of a handful of separate ideas, several of which do not depend as strongly as others on an understanding of biochemistry. For example, the ideas that life has changed over time and that organisms are related by common descent (both of which were controversial in Darwin’s time) are supported by evidence from geology, paleontology, and comparative anatomy. Those parts of his theory have withstood the test of time very well.
 By “biochemistry” I mean to include all disciplines that study life at the molecular level, such as molecular biology, biophysics, genetics, and others.