Behe’s book provides example after example of the inconceivable complexity of life at its most basic chemical/cellular level and points out that this “black box,” like the inner workings of a computer, cannot even be inferred, much less understood, from the outer visible structure. This inner complexity was completely unknown to Darwin and only discovered recently with the advent of the electron microscope. Behe offers multiple examples to prove that the way life is put together at the molecular level demolishes Darwin’s theory because it cannot possibly account for the indisputably intricate design of “irreducibly complex” systems. Such systems could not have evolved because, without all parts present and functioning in the right relationship to one another, the system fulfills no function and life cannot be sustained:
“What we see [in the cell] is this incredible complexity that no one ever imagined…[and] that calls for a conclusion of design….
“Biochemistry has, in fact, revealed a molecular world that stoutly resists [Darwinian] explanation…. Darwin never imagined the exquisitely profound complexity that exists even at the most basic levels of life.
“The typical cell contains about two thousand [mitochondrion compartments]…. Each of the little compartments contains machinery necessary to capture the energy of foodstuffs and store it in a chemically stable, yet readily available, form…. The system uses a flow of acid to power its machines, which shuttles electrons among a half-dozen carriers, requiring an exquisitely delicate interaction between many components…. The cell controls how much and what kinds of chemicals it makes; when it loses control, it dies….
“Life on earth at its most fundamental level, in its most critical components, is the product of intelligent activity. The conclusion of intelligent design flows naturally from the data itself—not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs….”
Darwin himself said, “if it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” This is precisely what we find at the biochemical, cellular level, a level of life about which Darwin knew nothing. Behe asks, “What type of biological system could not be formed by ‘numerous, successive, slight modifications’?” He answers conclusively: “Well, for starters, a system that is irreducibly complex,” as explained above. Behe’s discussion of DNA provides several further examples:
“DNA, the most famous of nucleic acids, is made up of four kinds of nucleotides: A, C, G, and T. The first building block, A, can be in several forms, designated AMP, ADP, or ATP. The form that is first synthesized in the cell is AMP…. It is comprised of…ten carbons, eleven hydrogens, seven oxygens, four nitrogens, and one phosphorus….
“The formation of biological molecules…requires specific, highly sophisticated molecular robots…. To make AMP…we also need very high-tech equipment: the enzymes…. In the absence of the enzymes, AMP is simply not made…. AMP is required for life on earth: it is used to make DNA and RNA, as well as a number of other critical molecules….
“The problem for Darwinian evolution is this: AMP is required for life. Either it immediately has a way to produce or obtain AMP, or the cell is dead….
“No one has a clue how the AMP pathway developed…[and] no one has written about the obstacle posed by the need to regulate a cell’s metabolic pathway immediately at its inception…. AMP is not the only metabolic dilemma for Darwin. The biosynthesis of the larger amino acids, lipids, vitamins, heme, and more run into the same problems, and there are difficulties beyond metabolism…mountains and chasms that block a Darwinian explanation of life.”