Behe and Irreducible Complexity — One More Time!

This one is hard to believe, but it popped up yesterday at the creationist website of the Discovery Institute. The thing is titled Behe Answers Best Objections to Irreducible Complexity, 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]:

On a new episode of ID the Future [Ooooooooooooh! A Discoveroid podcast!] Lehigh University biologist Michael Behe addresses what Philosophy for the People host Pat Flynn [Who?] considers some of the best objections to Behe’s central intelligent design argument.

You probably know who Michael Behe is, but for those who don’t, we’ll repeat what most of you already know. He’s not only a Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, he’s also a tenured professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University. 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, Behe was the Discoveroids’ star witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. We wrote about his catastrophic appearance there in Michael Behe’s Testimony. Remember that link, because we’ll refer to it soon.

Okay, back to the Discoveroids. They say:

As far back as the 1996 book Darwin’s Black Box [Link omitted!], Behe has argued that certain features in biology are irreducibly complex. That is, they require numerous essential parts, each carefully fitted to its task and integrated with the other parts, in order for the molecular machine or system to function at all.

Irreducibly complexity again? Groan! Wikipedia has a good article on it — see Irreducible complexity. Let’s move along. The Discoveroids tell us:

Two examples are the bacterial flagellum motor and the blood clotting cascade. Such systems are, in Behe’s words, irreducibly complex and could not have arisen through any blind and gradual evolution process. The better explanation for their origin: intelligent design.

This is exactly the same stuff Behe argued about way back in the Kitzmiller case. As we describe in our earlier post to which we already linked — his arguments were totally demolished. The Discoveroids continue:

Since Darwin’s Black Box became a bestseller a generation ago, Behe has attracted opponents in places high and low. Following the philosopher Alvin Plantinga, Flynn says that some of the attacks on Behe have been hysterical, but some have been more thoughtful.

Yes, Behe has attracted opponents. The big question is: Does he have any followers? (Other than his fellow Discoveroids, of course.) Ah well, let’s read on:

Flynn focuses the discussion on what he regards as some of the more substantive and interesting objections, beginning with one from a noted philosopher who is partly sympathetic to Behe’s work, Plantinga himself. Behe gamely responds. Download the podcast or listen to it here. [Link omitted!]

And now we come to the end:

To see Behe’s responses to common and key objections collected in a single book book, get your copy of his newest book, A Mousetrap for Darwin: Michael J. Behe Answers His Critics. [Amazon link.]

There’s not much we can say, except to remark that it’s rather amazing how Behe clings to his old and utterly rejected arguments. Well, he’s a Discoveroid, so what else would we expect?

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23 responses to “Behe and Irreducible Complexity — One More Time!

  1. Some years ago, I had a highly unsatisfactory correspondence with Plantinga. Unfortunately lost in an incompetent email upgrade by my then employer (University of North Texas), and Plantinga said he was too busy to dig it up from his end. I’ve since read a lot more Plantinga than I’d care to read again, but I’d still be very interested to learn what his objection was to Behe.

  2. @Paul Braterman was that in the days when it was complicated and difficult to find past emails? Because I don’t think those days ever existed. Lame excuse #589477647, Alvin .

  3. I am pretty sure that Plantinga didn’t have an objection to Behe, in the sense of specifying some fatal flaw in Behe’s argument, from Plantinga’s own knowledge. Rather, Plantinga tacitly accepted the opinion of others that there were fatal scientific and logical objections to the effectiveness of irreducible complexity as an argument for intelligent causation of any feature or structure of living things.

    Nevertheless, despite the failure of that argument, Plantinga held it to be true that a divine intelligence caused life to appear and proliferate, modify and evolve, until an intelligent species developed that could know the divine intelligence that created it.

    Plantinga appealed to non-scientific means of knowing – a sensus divinitatus, a instinctive certainty – that is, faith – to justify this, calling on the traditional Christian (and, I believe, speaking under correction, Jewish) idea that God is not constrained to demonstrate His presence to us. Of course this line simply places the question of whether there is such an intelligence and what, if anything, it did, outside the realm of what can be shown from physical evidence.

    I would hold that if a proposition cannot be demonstrated from physical evidence, it cannot be known to be true. But I am not sure that all such propositions must be false. That’s an uncomfortable position to be in, and different from Plantinga’s position that there are propositions that he knows to be true on grounds other than evidence, and also different from saying either that there are no such positions or that they are negligible. I regret that that’s as much as I can say.

  4. Between the Greeks and Egyptians I’m not sure who had the healthiest sensus divinitatus but the one with the most cat gods surely is the correct one.

  5. @richard
    Cats are not mentioned in the Bible. Although lions, a member of the cat family, are. And there is a mention in the book of Baruch.

  6. The argument that something is “irreducibly complex” is basically the same as “I have no idea how it really works, but here’s my guess”. That’s why it fits so well with intelligent design. Full disclosure: My PhD in biology is from Lehigh University, before Behe showed up.

  7. Alas, poor Behe, I never knew him. A man of infinite mockery, suffering the shooting of his own foot when it was not in his mouth.
    – Hambolet, Mockbeth

    Christopher Hitchens got it right when he wrote, “Religion poisons everything.”

    Behe could have had a normal career, beloved professor and all that, but, noooooooooo. He had to throw it all away being a Tooter. An unknown Yorick, a fool not a jester.

  8. The Wikipedia article shows several weaknesses about irreducible complexity. Going back some centuries.
    But there is the glaring weakness in all design argument: just because I can’t think of an answer, that doesn’t mean that some super agency is responsible.

  9. Behe is a biochemist so he is more like, I can think of an answer, but we all recognize when something is designed so who cares.

  10. That’s his only thing. We all recognize when something is designed, verbosely over several books.

  11. I thought the clotting cascade was already shown not to be IC since marine mammals lack one of the factors.

  12. @richard
    We recognize when something is designed …
    Yet so often, the argument is “enhanced” by saying that no object of designed is nearly so complicated as the simplest living thing.
    Yes, life does not look like any design that we know of.

  13. And , of course, neither bacterial flagellum or blood clotting require irreducible complexity. That is, if those systems worked through mechanisms where one or more of them could be absent and the system would still function, the system would be better designed and preferably to the one that we have, to the extent that the blood clotting cascade being such a stupid mess is responsible for innumerable deaths.

    I get that we’re supposed to pretend that they’re not saying the Designer is G-d, but they very definitely are, and moreover they’re saying that he’s bad at his job.

  14. @TomS, There is precedent for the unexplained. For example, Laplace, thinking about this very problem of distinguishing between the natural and the supernatural, pointed out that when faced with an unexplained phenomenon, such as in his case magnetism, scientists posit the existence of an unknown force or process, but attribute its being unknown, not to some limitation of the domain of the natural, but to their own ignorance of what the natural includes.

    @KeithB, you’re quite correct, as was pointed out at the Kitzmiller trial (I believe by Kenneth Miller). Though I do have some grudging respect for Behe who insisted, as I am reliably informed, on testifying in order to fulfil an obligation he had made, despite strong pressure from the rest of the DI to join them in running away in an attempt to minimise the damage.

    @richard, Not an excuse so much as an insult. But see Epictetus on insults

  15. “Though I do have some grudging respect for Behe who insisted, as I am reliably informed, on testifying in order to fulfil an obligation he had made, despite strong pressure from the rest of the DI to join them in running away in an attempt to minimise the damage.
    *Cough*Dembski*Cough*

  16. Everyone knows Mount Rushmore is designed, therefore everyone knows the flagellum is designed. Literally the ID argument.

  17. We can see cool things through our privileged telescopes, therefore the entire universe was designed just for us. The ID argument literally in a nutshell.

  18. The sculptures on Rushmore are designed. Just as are the fauna and flora on Rushmore. There is no difference. Perhaps the images just grew there, just growing there is a matter of design, after all.

  19. @TomS, Exactly. A “purposeful arrangement of presidents” so that Jesus could divinely inspire Hitchcock to direct North by Northwest.

  20. I can know something is Designed just by thinking about it.

    — Michael Behe

  21. Hey Alvin, maybe Behe has a sensus irreducible comlexitus. Why didn’t you think of that one Alvin.

  22. “We know from our own experience that such things as books and art only come from one source, a mind. So, when we see intentionally designed systems, purposeful arrangement of parts, we know that at an intelligent agent, a mind, must be the cause.” –Behe’s sensus irreducible comlexitus

  23. In light of derogatory name-calling being rightly frowned upon in refined circles, let’s just say I’m in complete awe of how absolutely something-something Behe’s quote is. Dude has got to be shilling something.