Behe’s Best Argument for Intelligent Design

Like a bunch of Holy Moly monks from the Dark Ages, the gang at the Discovery Institute continues to use theology as the foundation of their “scientific” argument for intelligent design. A good example is the latest post at their creationist blog, titled Biologist Michael Behe Tangles with Two Philosophers. It’s very brief and it has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

A new ID the Future episode [Ooooooooooooh! A Discoveroid podcast!] feature Darwin Devolves [Amazon link] author and Lehigh University biologist Michael Behe speaking about the logic and evidence of intelligent design with two philosophers, Pat Flynn and Jim Madden.

You know who Michael Behe is. He’s a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow and a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. He has tenure, so he’s never been Expelled. His colleagues at Lehigh are so impressed by his brilliance that they publicly disassociated themselves from him by issuing this statement: Department Position on Evolution and “Intelligent Design”. Also, as most of you know, he was the Discoveroids’ star witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We wrote about his catastrophic appearance there in Michael Behe’s Testimony.

Regarding Behe’s staring role in their latest podcast, the Discoveroids say:

In a friendly, stimulating exchange, Flynn and Madden press Behe with objections — some philosophic, others scientific — to see how well his position stands up to scrutiny from experts who have engaged the subject.

Ooooooooooooh! This is exciting! Can Behe stand up to such scrutiny? The Discoveroids tell us:

Here in Part 1 of a three-part series [Ooooooooooooh! There are two more parts coming!], Behe counters the charge that ID is an argument from ignorance, and then the three men compare the contemporary design argument to philosopher Thomas Aquinas’s Fifth Way.

Wikipedia has an article on Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) and his five arguments for God: Five Ways (Aquinas). Here’s how they introduce their description of his Fifth Way — the Argument from Final Cause or Ends:

We see various intelligent objects in the world behaving in regular ways. This cannot be due to chance since then they would not behave with predictable results. So their behavior must be set. But it cannot be set by themselves since they are non-intelligent and have no notion of how to set behavior. Therefore, their behavior must be set by something else, and by implication something that must be intelligent. This everyone understands to be God.

Ooooooooooooh! Overwhelming, isn’t it? No wonder the Discoveroids regard Behe as their greatest intellect.

The rest of their post is a plug for Behe’s latest book and then a link to the podcast they’ve been praising, so we’ll quit here. But we want to hear from you, dear reader. Did you find Behe’s argument persuasive? If not, why not?

Copyright © 2021. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

17 responses to “Behe’s Best Argument for Intelligent Design

  1. Who are Pat Flynn and Jim Madden?

  2. longshadow

    Trotting out the shop-worn arguments by Behe over an over again betokens the fact that the Discoveroids never come up with any new, compelling evidence in support of their, ugh, “theories.”

    It’s the scientific equivalent to the perpetual still-born campaigns of Harold Stassen for the GOP Nomination for president.

  3. If you’re interested in an argument for intelligent design, don’t bother with this.

  4. Wackydoodle “scrutinized” by even wackier doodles, film at 11:00.

  5. Dave Luckett

    The salto mortale: “We see various intelligent objects in the world behaving in regular ways. This cannot be due to chance since then they would not behave with predictable results.”

    Chance, though producing unpredictable results in the individual case, produces eminently predictable results in the population. Evolution is intrinsic to populations, not to individuals. (I suspect that Behe does not play poker, and would be a pigeon if he did.)

    “So their behavior must be set. But it cannot be set by themselves since they are non-intelligent and have no notion of how to set behavior.”

    Their behaviour is set by factors physically intrinsic to the atoms that make them up, and the basic laws of physics and chemistry. No conscious actor is needed for them to behave according to those physical properties and principles.

    “Therefore, their behavior must be set by something else, and by implication something that must be intelligent. This everyone understands to be God.”

    That is, God set the basic laws, that is, the principles upon which the Universe operates. Very well; that may be so. I know of no argument and no datum that disproves that idea.

    Three observations: One, the basic principles on which the Universe exists are of unknown origin. God is one explanation, in a sense. “In a sense” insofar as it simply relegates the explanation to the supernatural, which is not an explanation at all. In fact, the explanation is unknown, unsatisfactory as that might be. The unknown is… unknown, simple as that.

    Two: the burden of demonstration of the proposition falls upon the proposer. The proposition is divine creation. The burden of demonstration falls upon those who propose it. That burden has not been met.

    Three: If the proposition is limited to the idea that God set the basic principles upon which atoms react, and these principles allow the DNA molecule to exist, with its property of self-replication, then that proposition is in no way opposed to the theory of evolution of self-replictors, ie, living things.

    Forgive me. I am not labouring this for any regular contributor here.

  6. If I insist that there has to be an explanation that I can understand for the totality of everything, then I will not be satisfied with empty words.
    What I can see of the way that the world works doesn’t at all look like any kind of design. I am not persuaded by pointing out the ways that things are vastly different from any design that we know about.
    To say that there is an ineffable agency which is apt to do anything doesn’t seem much different from chance.
    To have it pointed out to me again and again that nobody has anything different to say is just boring.

  7. bewilderbeast

    “This everyone understands to be God.”
    See how they simply ignore me!?
    Just because 6,999,999,999 people understand something doesn’t mean I DO!

  8. @bewilderbeast
    “Everyone understands this to be God.”
    As Kant pointed out, this is not God, but an agent acting under the constraints of nature.

  9. In fairness, Tommy-boy Aquinas was from the 13th century. Certainly he is cited merely for historical purposes. A certain sense of nostalgia for when he was once considered authoritative. Haha just kidding, dude is still the best genius they got, which says a lot. In the land of the garbage, medieval garbage ages like fine wine.

  10. Behe took as a target text “Tantum ergo sacramentum”, a phrase from a religious Latin poem by Thomas Aquinas, not a terribly famous one nowadays.
    Myself, i would try an English quote, maybe the most famous one, “To be or not to be.” For Latin, isn’t this the most famous, “Et tu Brute”? Cicero, in his version of this argument, chose The Annals of Ennius.

  11. docbill1351

    The two philosophers are both Thomasists, no surprise there. Also, interesting fact, they are both personal fitness enthusiasts. Flynn studied economics and philosophy (no mention of degree), and Madden, PhD philosophy from Purdue (go Boilermakers!) teaches at a small, private Catholic college.

    Historical note, during the time of Aquinas the European wheelbarrow was invented for hauling muck, much like the Tooters today.

  12. DI: “Therefore, their behavior must be set by something else, and by implication something that must be intelligent. This everyone understands to be God.”

    Is gravity intelligent? Is Gravity God?

  13. @Random
    Yes, everyone understands gravity to be God.

  14. @Paul Braterman
    “Who are Pat Flynn and Jim Madden?”

    Everyone understands them to be God.

  15. Steve Gerrard

    the Argument from Final Cause or Ends:

    We see various intelligent objects in the world … since they are non-intelligent

    Can’t seem to decide if these objects are intelligent or not.

  16. @Steve Gerrard nice catch! But I think Wikipedia is the one to blame for that. It’s supposed to be various objects which lack intelligence, not various objects with intelligence.

    https://www.newadvent.org/summa/1002.htm#article3

  17. I’ll just quote the whole fifth way from that newadvent page:

    “The fifth way is taken from the governance of the world. We see that things which lack intelligence, such as natural bodies, act for an end, and this is evident from their acting always, or nearly always, in the same way, so as to obtain the best result. Hence it is plain that not fortuitously, but designedly, do they achieve their end. Now whatever lacks intelligence cannot move towards an end, unless it be directed by some being endowed with knowledge and intelligence; as the arrow is shot to its mark by the archer. Therefore some intelligent being exists by whom all natural things are directed to their end; and this being we call God.”