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Interview with Michael Behe on intelligent design Isolation and defamation: The cost of thinking differently
Thursday, 20 May 2010 05:13
by Kourosh Ziabari in Iran

Michael Behe is an American scientist and biochemist. Being an intelligent design advocate, he serves as a professor of biochemistry at the University of Lehigh in Pennsylvania. He is also a senior fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture.

Behe has controversially challenged the evolution theory of Charles Darwin which underpins the ideology of western though with regards to the material life and universe.

In his 1996 book "Darwin's Black Box", Behe has proposed the notion of irreducible complexity which underscores the role of an intelligent designer in the emergence of complex biological systems. According to this theory, certain biological systems are too complex to have evolved from simpler and less complex predecessors.

The theory of Behe undermines the basis of atheism and secularism as it advocates the role of an intelligent, conscious designer in the creation of human being. That's why Michael Behe has been attacked and insulted by a number of his opponents and the materialist scientists who deny the existence of God.

Michael Behe has been accused of disseminating deceitful falsehood and what is describe as pseudo-science in the scientific circles around the world. Behe's theory has been labeled as argument from ignorance and the University of Lehigh has clearly distanced itself from his viewpoints regarding the evolution - creation debate.

Here is the complete text of interview with Michael Behe in which he describes why the western society is afraid of the propagation of "intelligent design" theory.

Kourosh Ziabari: Irreproachably, scientists propose theories, hypotheses and premises as an instinctive part of their intellectual mission and these scientific proposals are conventionally discussed in academia; they'd be either accepted or rejected or may simply undergo modifications to be publicly presented; traditionally, we've learned that no scientific theory receives political treatment unless it transpires to be politically effectual. The long-disputed theory of intellectual design is one of the most controversial scientific notions which have even evoked judicial indictment and many universities around the world, including the Lehigh University, have clearly distanced themselves from this theory by issuing statements and delivering lectures. What are these frantic reactions to a single scientific theory for?

Michael Behe: Scientific hypotheses are usually uncontroversial unless they have political, moral, or ontological implications. Intelligent design is an example of a theory with ontolgical implications -- that is, what sorts of things exist? However, it is hardly the first one. For example, in the 17th century Isaac Newton proposed his theory of gravity. At the time it was controversial because Newton was proposing that bodies could interact without physically touching each other. That went against the view of the time and seemed to say that the universe contained more kinds of things than was thought. A second example is the Big Bang theory. A hundred years ago most scientists thought the universe was eternal and essentially unchanging. Then astronomy observed that galaxies seemed to be speeding away from each other and from the earth. That was the beginning of the Big Bang theory. Many scientists hated the theory because they thought it pointed to a beginning, which may have been the creation of the universe. I think intelligent design theory is controversial for the same reasons -- like the Big Bang theory it seems to point to something beyond our universe as an explanation.

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KZ: Is the modern, western society whose dominant ideological principal values are predicated on secularism, disestablishment and disbelief in a "talented agent" whom the monotheistic religions call "God", really afraid of the growing confidence in an intelligent designer who can not be merely described within the frameworks of tangible science? Why do they really prohibit the teaching of evolution theory in the schools and universities if there's allegedly a freedom of speech and unrestricted debate in the western societies?

MB: There are several reasons why there is such a strong reaction by the scientific community against intelligent design. First, at least in the United States, there has been a history of conflict between science and some religious groups (those who believe in a young earth), so some people automatically view the idea of intelligent design in light of those conflicts. A second reason is that many scientists want to think that they will be able to explain all features of the universe, and they resent people who claim that science may not be able to do that. Finally, many scientists, especially at the more elite institutions, are atheists and simply don't want there to be a God or anything beyond nature. They strongly resist anything that would suggest they may be wrong.

KZ: The 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial in which you testified as an expert witness has been one of the most disputed indictments where the teaching of intelligent design and creationism were publicly labeled unconstitutional. Do you believe that Judge Jones' final verdict was impartially objective and unbiased? What happens to a free society which collectively ousts the members of a school board of directors in lieu of proposing an alternative suggestion to its students?

MB: No, I don't think Judge Jones verdict was objective and unbiased. Actually, I don't think the judge understood any of the academic arguments that were presented in his court room, whether science, philosophy or theology, or whether presented by the plaintiffs or defendants. If you examine the court records, you see that when the judge's ruling discusses the nature of science, the judge's opinion was essentially copied from a document given to him by the plaintiffs lawyers. There is no evidence he himself understood what he was copying. But when the leading scientific societies strongly are arrayed on one side against a local community school board on the other side, the judge went with those who have cultural power in our society.

I regret the judge's decision, but nonetheless I think the school board elections in which the old board lost and a new board installed is a reasonable example of democratic action. The big issue for many local residents was not what was taught in biology class in the local high school. Rather it was the expense of the trial itself, which was over a million dollars. Residents who had no children in the school, or who knew little of the issues, would still have their taxes increased to pay the legal costs of the trial. That made many of them angry, so they voted against the old school board.

KZ: According to a recent Gallup Poll published in early February 2009, only 39% of Americans say they "believe in the theory of evolution" and a similar trend has apparently emerged in UK as The Rescuing Darwin survey showed that only 25% of Britons believe that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is "definitely true". What's the main reason behind such a wide gap between the mainstream trajectory and the popular trends in these societies?

MB: I think that the main reason for the disparity is the difference in the philosophies of the elite elements of society versus ordinary people. Much of the elite in our society (such as academics, media, entertainment industry, and so on) is secularized, and an idea like Darwin's theory is congenial to their view of the world. The bulk of ordinary people, however, are religious and their views are not constricted by the need to explain everything in the world by chance and natural law. So when they view the evidence for Darwin's theory most people are unpersuaded by it.

KZ: Why do some people argue that a religious world-view of creation, and not necessarily the school of Creationism, contradicts the possible scientific validity of Evolution and thus, science and religion don't come in conformity? Is it only because of the "metaphorical" 6 days of creation in Bible (which is identically mentioned in Muslims' Quran the same way) and the longstanding argument over the commencement of life which creationists believe predates to 10,000 years ago? What's the exact viewpoint of creationist scientists on the extinction of Tyrannosaurus rex which the conventional scholars believe have died out at the end of the Cretaceous period, some 65m years ago?

MB: The basic conflict is the role of randomness in evolutionary theory. Many scientists discount religious views of creation, including ones that agree the earth is very old, because Darwin's theory requires that life arise and develop solely by chance changes plus natural selection. If God is directing the development of life in any way, then life did not develop by "chance" -- it developed by design, or guidance. Many scientists do not like this possibility for the reasons I gave in the answer to question 2.

It is not just that some people think life began only 10,000 years ago. Many scientists are strongly against any theory that has any role for a guiding intelligence. Official science organizations are as opposed to the limited claims of intelligent design as they are to people who advocate a young earth.

KZ: The opponents of intelligent design brand as "argument from ignorance" and resorting to the "God of gaps" creationists' argument that complex biological systems could not have come to the existence as a result of frequent gradual evolutions. If we take into account a linguistic instance, science again fails to account for the genius polyglots' ability to speak several languages as a result of their infliction with the Asperger syndrome and this simply demonstrates that material science still seems to be ineffectual to respond to a number of ambiguities. What do you think about that?

MB: I agree that science can say very little about the workings of the human mind. That itself is not too surprising because there are many questions that science cannot answer, even in what most people would agree was its proper domain. The big conflict arises because many scientists do not acknowledge that there is anything that is outside of the domain of science. They will assume, against all evidence, that the mind is just a complex aggregate of matter, and does not point to anything higher. That view is absurd to most nonscientists, but because many scientists view themselves as smarter and better than the bulk of humanity, they disregard other people's views. Of course, this leads to contradictions, so that a scientist must think that his own mind is just an arrangement of matter, built for survival. But most scientists are poor philosophers, and often don't see the contradictions.

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Comments (3)add comment

Andy said:

You ID advocates have to make up your mind, is ID religion or science, your article claims it is both which gives this interview zero credibility......and I'm surprised that Behe would show his face in public after his embarrassing testimony in the Dover trail.
May 20, 2010
Votes: +3

Project Humanbeingsfirst.org said:

Is Richard Feynman's 'out of body experiment' pursuit of science or religion?


I am always fascinated by investigations into this subject matter by brilliant scientists. In my experience, almost all of them, leave a lot to be desired. Most often, for want of humility. For instance, here is a letter to the most uber scientist of them all to have an opinion on the question of origin, in these times: Richard Dawkins


And here are some passages from it:


While reading the first few paragraphs of the first chapter of this interestingly titled book, I came across the following assertion in the very first passages:

There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, wrote:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant'? Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.' A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.

All Sagan's books touch the nerve-endings of transcendent wonder that religion monopolized in past centuries. My own books have the same aspiration.

The underlined assertion in question is one attributed to Carl Sagan above. And since Mr. Dawkins claims “My own books have the same aspiration”, and also, further on quotes “The Nobel Prize-winning physicist (and atheist) Steven Weinberg”, I thought it à propos to draw Mr. Dawkins' kind attention to what the sharer of the same Nobel Prize in Physics, the same year for the same topic, stated in the 'Banquet speech' after accepting his one-third of that much wonted glory as rationalists par excellence (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_pr...peech.html):

On behalf of my colleagues, Professor Glashow and Weinberg, I thank the Nobel Foundation and the Royal Academy of Sciences for the great honour and the courtesies extended to us, including the courtesy to me of being addressed in my language Urdu.

Pakistan is deeply indebted to you for this.

The creation of Physics is the shared heritage of all mankind. East and West, North and South have equally participated in it. In the Holy Book of Islam, Allah says

“Thou seest not, in the creation of the All-merciful any imperfection, Return thy gaze, seest thou any fissure. Then Return thy gaze, again and again. Thy gaze, Comes back to thee dazzled, aweary.”

This in effect is, the faith of all physicists; the deeper we seek, the more is our wonder excited, the more is the dazzlement for our gaze.

The point being, the quoted verses (in bold) of the Qur'an above (67:3-4) do exactly what Carl Sagan presumably lamented and what Dawkins ostensibly shares in [Sagan's lament], by his own admission. I have also seen similar expressions of wonderment in the Vedas and the Bhagvat Gita (though I am unable to cite them off the top of my head at the moment).

It might help Mr. Dawkins argue his case better - if his sole intent is not to preach to the choir, or push an agenda whatever its merit, but to be a genuine 'truth' seeker, a scientist, a discoverer, before he can be an exponent – if he also became a bit knowledgeable of the subject matter in which he pontificates.

Most of Mr. Dawkins' objections, it appears, are drawn from the Judeo-Christian history and narrative of the subject matter, and as the above example from the Qur'an sufficiently proves, does not necessarily extrapolate (easily) to the Eastern conceptions of the subject matter (in their original exposition minus their cultural distortions and colored-manifestations due to which, in order to acquire sufficient credible expertise, one has to be minimally fluent in their original languages, in this case Arabic and Sanskrit, and read the original works).

Comprehension, as in all matters, and as in physics and biology, comes much later, and deepest comprehension comes, and certainly only after at least acquiring accurate factual knowledge of the subject matter that can be had, through much reflection. Deep comprehension is far more precious and contributory to human knowledge and understanding of 'how it all happened' than mere recitation of imposing data and voluminous facts and figures (which, as every good scientist knows, is often quite ephemeral and continually evolving in 'what it means').

Some have it, obviously, and quite enduringly, like Newton and Darwin, both scientist par excellence in their respective fields with an enviable factual mastery over their domains of articulation some of which still holds centuries later, leaving a lasting impact on others by their deeper insights; while others, mere chimps and wannabes, pick on populist themes in the culture du jour merely chasing the glory and notoriety their entire lives, and are mercifully forgotten the moment they are six feet under and food for the 'same' maggots. What perhaps distinguishes one from the other, minimally, is at least the former cannot be caught by a simple layman (like this humble plebeian) in such glaring ignorance of the subject matter in which one is so expertly pontificating.

As Abdus Salam quoted Einstein in the Nobel Lecture (http://nobelprize.org/nobel_pr...ecture.pdf): 'I believe, however, that the following quote from Einstein’s Herbert Spencer lecture of 1933 expresses his, my colleagues’ and my own views more accurately. “Pure logical thinking cannot yield us any knowledge of the empirical world; all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.” ' And surely, even on such a subject matter as 'God', and 'how it all came about', of which at least the latter pertains to empirical world, 'all knowledge of reality starts from experience and ends in it.' Other than that, one's 'virtuous' speculations, either side of the divide, are as good as another's! Most call that 'beliefs'.

Unfortunately, since Mr. Dawkins 'speculations' fall short in the very first passages of the very first chapter that he has so generously made available for free on his website to whet the appetite of prospective readers, I fear I would have to pass this otherwise fantastically titled book and perhaps wait for his next, hopefully more carefully researched one that more accurately captures the factual reality of the domain over which he so authoritatively writes.

I am genuinely looking forward to seeing the world from a real rationalist's lens – being of considerably limited capabilities myself – if only I can find one (a teacher) who is genuinely knowledgeable, non-agendist, non-indoctrinated, and non-fundamentalist truth seeker. I define a 'fundamentalist' as one who has unexamined axioms - in any field. And I find that science, interestingly enough, is as populated by them as any other 'religion'. I hope Mr. Dawkins isn't among them.

And I further hope that Mr. Dawkins can recognize that the only strict scientifically tenable position on the subject matter – unless one claims to be the 'all knowing', 'perfect' in knowledge 'god' – is agnostic. That was the argument of Bertrand Russell (in his conversation with a priest broadcast on radio in New York, and reproduced in his essay compilation titled 'why I am not a Christian', where he conceded that his position can no more be 'proved' than his antagonists', and in that sense he was agnostic). The rest is a matter of personal beliefs, no differently for a theist, than for an a-theist. Unless one commences from Bertrand Russell's strictly scientific proposition – agnosticism – and compelling demonstrates either swing, one is as vacuous as any 'pir' in any 'religion'.

--- End excerpt

So what does this letter to Dawkins have to do with this interview by the Iranian journalist of another investigator into the question of origin? It is the last passage of the interview:

"I agree that science can say very little about the workings of the human mind. That itself is not too surprising because there are many questions that science cannot answer, even in what most people would agree was its proper domain. The big conflict arises because many scientists do not acknowledge that there is anything that is outside of the domain of science. They will assume, against all evidence, that the mind is just a complex aggregate of matter, and does not point to anything higher. That view is absurd to most nonscientists, but because many scientists view themselves as smarter and better than the bulk of humanity, they disregard other people's views. Of course, this leads to contradictions, so that a scientist must think that his own mind is just an arrangement of matter, built for survival. But most scientists are poor philosophers, and often don't see the contradictions."

And that observation is the heart of the matter.

The Arabic word "ilm" which occurs in the Qur'an for instance, as in “and say 'O my Rab! increase me in ilm.'” (Qur'an verse 20:114), has arbitrarily been limited to "science" by the Western world. As can be seen in the first quoted verse which physicist Abdus Salam rehearsed at his Nobel Prize reception, "ilm" does include the pursuit of science, but its implications are far broader, and deeper!

For instance, here is something that not a single scientist can deny, yet it is not based on science.

Continuing from the same letter to Dawkins:


Conversely, I found Richard Feynman's 'out of body' experiment in a sensory deprivation tank quite illuminating and insightful of his open mindedness to experiment in alternate forms of knowledge exploration/acquisition as a scientific paradigm, and its informal acceptance by the scientific world upon the mere word of a credible name in its field, with none dare calling him a 'lunatic', a 'fringe', or diminishing his stature as the foremost scientist of his era, illustrative. When Feynman finally noted his success by actually 'seeing himself float' in the unusual series of experiments, with these words “no known laws of physics were violated”, and almost every scientist I have ever met accepted it as a reality of Feynman's 'scientific' experience, then if that was a criteria of the most stellar scientific mind of the twentieth century to not invalidate a personal experience that no one else can 'scientifically' reproduce (as is normally understood by repeatability and reproducibility if known variables are similarly controlled), then I see little reason not to apply the same subjective yardstick to others with similar (or higher) credibility in their own domains as well.

End excerpt

A bit of humility among scientists to not become the same sort of religious fundamentalists, as they accuse thier theistic brethren, in their pre-suppositions, and in their axioms, would certainly help increase human knowledge of our origins far more penetratingly.

Just 0.02.

Zahir Ebrahim
Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

May 20, 2010
Votes: -1

Human Ape said:

Behe is a disgrace.
Being an intelligent design advocate, he serves as a professor of biochemistry at the University of Lehigh.

Intelligent design = MAGIC. Michael Behe is a magic advocate. His Lehigh university is ashamed of him. Their biology department wrote the following statement about Behe, the fake scientist who invokes magic to solve scientific problems:

Lehigh University Department of Biological Sciences
Department Position on Evolution and "Intelligent Design"

The faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences is committed to the highest standards of scientific integrity and academic function. This commitment carries with it unwavering support for academic freedom and the free exchange of ideas. It also demands the utmost respect for the scientific method, integrity in the conduct of research, and recognition that the validity of any scientific model comes only as a result of rational hypothesis testing, sound experimentation, and findings that can be replicated by others.

The department faculty, then, are unequivocal in their support of evolutionary theory, which has its roots in the seminal work of Charles Darwin and has been supported by findings accumulated over 140 years. The sole dissenter from this position, Prof. Michael Behe, is a well-known proponent of "intelligent design." While we respect Prof. Behe's right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally, and should not be regarded as scientific.

Michael Behe: "If God is directing the development of life in any way, then life did not develop by chance"

Natural selection is NOT chance. Behe knows this but he doesn't talk about it because he's a professional liar for Jeebus, and he knows he's a liar.

It's already been pointed out that Michael Behe disgraced himself at the Dover trial. The entire scientific community laughs at the breathtaking stupidity of Michael Behe.

Behe said "I regret the judge's decision". Behe, you should regret showing up for court because you will be ridiculed for your pathetic performance there for the rest of your worthless life. Your attempt to force biology teachers to teach your childish religious beliefs is nothing less than treason. Please notice that every single biology teacher at that school refused to cooperate with the creationists on the Dover school board. Also, angry voters threw out the creationists. They were upset that you, Behe, and the creationists on the school board, wasted one million dollars of taxpayer money on legal bills so people like you could attack science education to accommodate your idiotic Christian death cult. Behe, you're a traitor and a disgrace to your country. You should be ashamed of yourself, but instead you continue to spread lies about science, while laughing at your gullible customers all the way to the bank. You deserve nothing but ridicule and contempt.

darwin-killed-god dot blogspot dot com
May 30, 2010
Votes: +1

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