I am interested in the evolution of complex biochemical systems. Many molecular systems in the cell require multiple components in order to function. I have dubbed such systems "irreducibly complex." (Behe 1996b, 2001) Irreducibly complex systems appear to me to be very difficult to explain within a traditional gradualistic Darwinian framework, because the function of the system only appears when the system is essentially complete. (An illustration of the concept of irreducible complexity is the mousetrap pictured below, which needs all its parts to work.)
Despite much general progress by science in the past half century in understanding how complex biochemical systems work, little progress has been made in explaining how such systems arise in a Darwinian fashion. I have proposed that a better explanation is that such systems were deliberately designed by an intelligent agent. (Behe 1996b, 2001) The proposal of intelligent design has proven to be extremely controversial, both in the scientific community (for example, see Brumfiel, G. 2005. Nature434:1062‑1065) and in the general news media. (Behe 1996a, 1999, 2005) My current work involves: 1) educating various groups to overcome mistaken ideas of what exactly intelligent design entails, so that they can make informed judgments on whether they think it is a plausible hypothesis; and 2) trying to establish a reasoned way to determine a rough dividing line between design and non-design in biochemical systems.
My ideas about irreducible complexity and intelligent design are entirely my own. They certainly are not in any sense endorsed by either Lehigh University in general or the Department of Biological Sciences in particular. In fact, most of my colleagues in the Department strongly disagree with them.
Behe, M. J. 2013. Getting There First: An Evolutionary Rate Advantage for Adaptive Loss-of-Function Mutations. Biological Information: New Perspectives, edited by R. J. Marks II, M. J. Behe, W. A. Dembski, and B. L. Gordon. World Scientific Publishing, Hong Kong, 450-473.
Behe, M.J. 2010. Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations, and ‘The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution.’ Quarterly Review of Biology 85, 419-445.
Behe M. J. 2007. The Edge of Evolution: the search for the limits of Darwinism. Free Press, New York.
Behe, M.J. 2005. Design for Living. New York Times, February 7, p. A21.
Behe M.J., Snoke D.W. 2004. Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues. Protein Sci13:2651-2664.
Behe, M.J. 2003. "Design in the Details: The Origin of Biomolecular Machines." In Darwinism, Design & Public Education, Campbell, J.A. and Meyer, S.C. eds., Michigan State University Press, pp. 287-302.
Behe, M.J. 2003. "The Modern Intelligent Design Hypothesis: Breaking Rules." In God and Design: The Teleological Argument and Modern Science , Neil Manson, ed., Routledge, pp. 277-291.
Behe, M.J. 2002. The challenge of irreducible complexity. Natural History 111, 74.
Behe, M.J. 1999. Teach Evolution—And Ask Hard Questions. New York Times, August 13, p. A21.
Behe, M.J. 1996a. Darwin Under the Microscope, New York Times, October 29, p. A25.
Behe, M.J. 1996b. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, The Free Press, New York.