The Brilliance of Michael Behe, Part 2

This is ghastly stuff, but the Discoveroids think it’s good enough for their drooling readers. The title is Best of Behe: Blind Evolution or Intelligent Design? An Address at the American Museum of Natural History. The author is Michael Behe, a Discovery Institute “Senior Fellow,” and it seems to be part of a series the Discoveroids are running. We wrote about the first episode a month ago — see The Brilliance of Michael Behe.

As before, it begins with an introduction:

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of biochemist Michael Behe’s pathbreaking book [blah, blah], we have highlighted some of Dr. Behe’s “greatest hits.” The following is a talk delivered at the American Museum of Natural History on April 23, 2002. Behe spoke as a participant on a panel including ID proponent William A. Dembski and evolutionists Kenneth R. Miller and Robert T. Pennock. Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education moderated.

Then there’s an avalanche of creationist stuff. We’ll excerpt some of the more amusing parts, and add some bold font for emphasis:

My talk will be divided into four parts: first, a sketch of the argument for design; second, common misconceptions about the mode of design; third, misconceptions about biochemical design; and finally, discussion of the future prospects of design. Before I begin, however, I’d like to emphasize that the focus of my argument will not be descent with modification, with which I agree. Rather, the focus will be the mechanism of evolution — how did all this happen, by natural selection or intelligent design? My conclusion will not be that natural selection doesn’t explain anything; Rather, the conclusion will be that natural selection doesn’t explain everything.

That’s important. Behe’s claim is that whatever isn’t yet explained — to his satisfaction — must be caused by Oogity Boogity. It’s a classic God of the gaps argument. He says:

So, let’s begin with a sketch of the design argument. In the Origin of Species, Darwin emphasized that his was a very gradual theory; natural selection had to work by “numerous, successive, slight modifications” to pre-existing structures. However, “irreducibly complex” systems seem quite difficult to explain in gradual terms. What is irreducible complexity? I’ve defined the term in various places, but it’s easier to illustrate what I mean with the following example: the common mousetrap.

[*Groan*] Kenneth Miler has an article on that: The Flaw in the Mousetrap. Skipping an arkload of Behe’s babble about mousetraps and irreducibly complexity, he says:

Now I will address common misconceptions about the mode of design, that is, how design may have happened.

[…]

I think the principle boils down to this: Design appears to point strongly beyond nature. It has philosophical and theological implications, and that makes many people uncomfortable. But any theory that purports to explain how life occurred will have philosophical and theological implications.

[…]

But how could biochemical systems have been designed? Did they have to be created from scratch in a puff of smoke? No. The design process may have been much more subtle. It may have involved no contravening of natural laws. Let’s consider just one possibility. Suppose the designer is God, as most people would suspect. Well, then, as Ken Miller points out in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, a subtle God could cause mutations by influencing quantum events such as radioactive decay, something that I would call guided evolution. That seems perfectly possible to me. I would only add, however, that that process would amount to intelligent design, not Darwinian evolution.

How would we know if God caused the mutation or if it just occurred naturally? We’re not told. After another arkload of blather, Behe says:

I will now discuss how I view the future prospects of a theory of intelligent design. I see them as very bright indeed. Why? Because the idea of intelligent design has advanced, not primarily because of anything I or any individual has done. Rather, it’s been the very progress of science itself that has made intelligent design plausible.

Really? Let’s read on:

Fifty years ago much less was known about the cell, and it was much easier then to think that Darwinian evolution was true. But with the discovery of more and more complexity at the foundation of life, the idea of intelligent design has gained strength. That trend is continuing. As science pushes on, the complexity of the cell is not getting any less; on the contrary, it is getting much greater.

Behe describes some recent discoveries, and declares that intelligent design is the obvious explanation — to him. Skipping another arkload, we come to his final paragraph:

In summary, I want to leave you with four take-home points: 1) that the question is open: no other scientific theory has yet explained the data; 2) that intelligent design is an empirical hypothesis that flows easily from the data, as you can tell by looking at a drawing of the flagellum; 3) that there is no “principle” that forbids our considering design; and best of all, 4) that there are exciting research questions that can be asked within a design framework.

That’s it — the best of Behe. Perhaps now it’s easier to understand why his colleagues at Lehigh, where he’s a tenured professor of biochemistry, are so impressed by his brilliance that they publicly disassociated themselves from him by issuing this statement: Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “The Brilliance of Michael Behe, Part 2

  1. As you say – if one can’t distinguish a random mutation from a god-directed mutation, then how is it an empirical hypothesis?

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    ” there are exciting research questions ” … 14 years later, same questions, same lack of research. Oh, and DI’s wedgie in Dover.

  3. Hold on a second. If life reached this point through “divinely guided mutations”, doesn’t that contradict the basic premise of irreducible complexity — that gradual mutations are unable to create complex organisms? Which is it, Behe? Evolution can be guided by God, or evolution is impossible?

  4. Perhaps a future topic for an SC “fire free zone” might be to dissect Behe’s common mousetrap into it’s components, label them, then find other uses for those same components. Of course, if one assumes, as Behe does, that all the mousetrap’s components magically came together, poof, in one instance of time as a result of his great designer, then it would be a fruitless exercise.

  5. After all these years, has anyone found any description or definition of “Intelligent Design” more instructive than relying on the analogy of the mousetrap?

  6. Christine Janis

    What about the bad mutations. Are they God’s punishment?

  7. What about good mutations, like industrial melanism?
    What about mixed mutations, like sickle cell?
    What about neutral mutations?

  8. In the section referencing Milller, Behe fails to explain what conceivable difference there is between “a puff of smoke” and “influencing a quantum event”. Other than the magical “Chopra effect” the word quantum has on stupid people. He basically says it didn’t have to be a miracle, it could have just been a >miracle<**.

    It's difficult to know whether these people are to be pitied as victims of a cognitive virus, or held in contempt as lying as*holes.

    **cue spooky quantum music.

  9. “In celebration of the 20th anniversary ….”
    It looks like that’s all the IDiots from Seattle do these days – writing one In Memoriam after another. Of course that impression is the product of my evil atheist, materialist etc. etc. mind. I guess that somewhere in the future we will be dazzled by new ID insights, given

    “discussion of the future prospects of design”.
    It’s just my problem that I’ve been waiting for those prospects to become reality for so many years now.

    “the conclusion will be that natural selection doesn’t explain everything”
    Brilliant indeed! No, natural selection doesn’t explain electricity. It doesn’t explain why Javanese tend to be muslims and Norwegians not. It doesn’t even explain things that are explained by sexual selection.

    “Kenneth Miler has an article ….”
    There is an even better one:

    http://udel.edu/~mcdonald/mousetrap.html

    Behe doesn’t really keep up. Maybe that’s the future prospect of Idiocy?

  10. “biochemist Michael Behe’s pathbreaking book”

    It seems combining “path finding” and “ground breaking” into one new word has inadvertently exposed some truth…

  11. Pathetic stuff alright. Perhaps this is why Klinkledooper has exactly 788 followers on Twitter.

  12. “biochemist Michael Behe’s pathbreaking book”

    That’s a typo. It’s Michael Behe’s windbreaking book.

  13. I do wonder why his “triumph” at the Kitzmiller trial wasn’t included in this presentation.

  14. I’m tired of the discoveroids exploiting scientific institutions. They need to get their money raising in high gear and build the American Museum of Supernatural History.

  15. But how could biochemical systems have been designed? Did they have to be created from scratch in a puff of smoke? No. The design process may have been much more subtle. It may have involved no contravening of natural laws. Let’s consider just one possibility. Suppose the designer is God, as most people would suspect. Well, then, as Ken Miller points out in his book, Finding Darwin’s God, a subtle God could cause mutations by influencing quantum events such as radioactive decay, something that I would call guided evolution. That seems perfectly possible to me. I would only add, however, that that process would amount to intelligent design, not Darwinian evolution.

    How would we know if God caused the mutation or if it just occurred naturally? We’re not told.

    It’s easy. If it occurred naturally, it would have to result in a loss of information. Why don’t you see? Perhaps a stretch in a redemption camp . . . !

  16. And what is the difference whether God created me or whether I was the the result of natural reproduction?

  17. Conspicuously absent from his take-home points are “evidence” and “proof.”

    Even if every person agreed the flagellum appears to be designed, what does that prove? Not a damn thing. Behe offers no way to move beyond this. HOW was it designed? WHERE is the designer? HOW was it assembled? And he certainly offers no proof that the designer still exists or exists in a supernatural realm, whatever that means. In short, he is chasing his tail. WHY CAN’T THESE IDiots SEE THIS?? Sorry, I am so frustrated seeing the same old fallacies again and again.