Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

From: John Walley <>
Date: Sat Oct 10 2009 - 03:18:57 EDT

Ok fair enough. Maybe this distinction comes down to the difference between faith and practice.

I can certainly understand why Behe feels he should be able to say what he wants and practice his faith however he sees fit and go to whatever conference he chooses. I feel that way too and I wouldn't want it taken away from me. And I won't deny that many of his Catholic brethren (even YECs) will be helped by his involvement.

As far as all the political posturing and associations and atheist resistance, he probably just feels like he didn't sign up for that and doesn't want to be bothered with it. That is fair enough as well and I don't blame him. Maybe it isn't my place to pass judgment on him and decide for him what he owes the church in his views or his behavior.

But I am still torn. From my very safe and comfortable vantage point on the sidelines trying to foment theological revolution in the church, I ask why Behe can't be more like Collins?  In fact why can't more ASA'ers be more like Collins? That is a question that comes up frequently on this list as well, which is why we don't see as much evangelism out of TE as we do ID, PC and YEC.

Collins appears to be an exception bridging both TE and evangelism and he has both the prominent platform and all the requisite political skills as well. I am very glad to have Collins but I will concede it is not fair to expect Behe or anyone else to be Collins, even though from my perspective it seems like such an easy ask.

So you have convinced me, I will retract my comments about what Behe ought to do but I am still frustrated to see so much of the church still in this bondage.  I still mean what I said about owning the problem though and trying to do whatever I can to fix it every chance I get.

And BTW, I did read all Behe's responses and Caroll's and Miller's and Dawkins' and Coyne's responses in turn ad nauseum and my technical comment was still synthesized from all that. I think if I had to try to put my finger on it, I would say my root objection in all this boils down to the assumption that design = some obvious observation = an offensive weapon in the culture wars => evolution bashing => unnecessary conflict. I think that is what needlessly derails the valid aspects of the design argument and it pains me to see so many distracted by that and so much opportunity to do good lost by that.



----- Original Message ----
From: Cameron Wybrow <>
To: asa <>
Sent: Fri, October 9, 2009 11:08:46 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

John, I'm glad to see you are feeling more open-minded to Behe's presentation these days.

As for your specific arguments on the technical side, most or all of them were made by critics of Behe after *The Edge of Evolution* came out.  Behe replied to every one of the critics on his blog site.  (I heard a rumour that was no longer allowing author blogs, so that site may be down.  However, all the material has been re-posted at Uncommon Descent.) I will not say in a partisan manner that Behe decisively refuted every argument, but it does it appear to me that he did not duck any criticism, and made a serious effort to give a good scientific reply in every case. (In keeping with his classy behaviour, he declined to reply to all the nasty, ad hominem flak which accompanied many of the reviews.)  In any case, you can pursue your detailed objections by reading Behe's responses. Perhaps he has already addressed your concerns.

For the most part, Behe doesn't jump to theological conclusions.  He says that life indicates design, and he adds (speaking personally, not as a scientist) that he thinks the designer is God.  Unlike some other ID people, he's written no works of Christian apologetics (that I know of).  He may occasionally have spoken of his religious views in Catholic or other Christian settings -- I don't know.  But I would wager a small sum that he has never made any claim that from design you can prove the truth of the Trinity or the Bible or anything of the sort.  I would expect that such religious talks as he has given would be more along the lines of:  Christian faith has nothing to fear from science, because the latest science points to (doesn't demonstrate, but strongly points to) the designer that Christians (along with Jews and others) have always believed in.

I suspect that Behe is participating in the Villanova conference because it is a *Catholic* event, not because it is (if it is, which is uncertain) a specifically *YEC* event.  Remember that Behe is Catholic, and it is not surprising that he would go to a Catholic conference on religion and science occurring nearby, in his own state.  It would be over-reading to infer more, especially since Behe is on record as accepting macroevolution and an ancient earth and is not going to win any acceptance from YECs no matter what he does.


----- Original Message ----- From: "John Walley" <>
To: "Cameron Wybrow" <>; "asa" <>
Sent: Friday, October 09, 2009 5:18 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....

I shared Bernie's skepticism toward Behe which I know is also shared by many on this list but I for one have read his books. In fact I defended Edge on this list quite vehemently after I read it several years ago as I had the same reaction as did McWhorter. It all just seemed so obvious to me after reading Edge. I have run the gamut of reactions to Behe but after this video I am now back to the more sympathetic posture towards him. I think he presented himself very well in that video and his position is very rational and logical. I think design as opposed to totally unguided randomness is a no brainer and I think Behe deserves credit for that. I also think his malaria example is novel and unique and is as close to any experimental evidence as to exactly what evolution can do that we have and he is justified to bring that out. And that experimental evidence speaks for itself.

However, on balance I have criticisms of Behe I would offer him if he asked. The most technical one which was crystalized after reading all the reviews and a lot of discussions on this list is that Behe's approach to evolution appears to be primarily focused on single point mutations (as in the the malaria example) and that is only one of many sources of variation in evolutionary mechanisms. And 500 years of single point mutations in malaria is not enough of a data point to be representative of billions of years of evolutionary history and dozens of sources of variation. Although I think he does a very thorough job of examining this single mechanism in the case of malaria and it does compellingly support his position, I think it is somewhat simplistic to allow the reader to believe that that is the sole or even the primary mechanism of evolution. So probably the most accurate response to his whole argument is so what? I don't agree that it necessarily
proves what he says it does and it is almost misleading to imply it does. And as a biochemist, he should know better.

Also on the theological front, I think it is a mistake for him to reject any place for randomness in nature and to say that everything is intentional and designed. In fact, having some randomness is key to any meaningful theodicy and Behe totally misses it on this one. Further I I think Behe is too quick to jump to the conclusion of design from both his malaria and IC examples and he is too eager to be associated with the design=special creation wing of the church which also includes YEC. Just today we saw Behe speaking at some YEC oriented event. This is a very serious error of judgment on his part I think and it empowers Carroll and the others to oppose him so viscerally.

Compare Behe to Collins who likely have the identical beliefs on God working through evolution but look at the difference in the public's reaction to them. I have drawn this distinction here before but it is worthwhile to draw it again. Behe is shunned by his own dept as a professor at a PRIVATE university, but Collins is appointed the head of a GOV'T agency with a $22B budget.
Now how can that happen if they have the same beliefs about evolution? I think Behe is too quick to jump to theological conclusions that are unwarranted while Collins is much more cautious about it and plays his cards much more politically prudently. They are also on opposite sides of the abortion issue as well which also contributes to this disparity. BTW did anyone else read Crichton's latest NEXT and get that the main scientist character that played the political establishment in Washington and attended all the prayer breakfasts' was probably based on Collins?


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Received on Sat Oct 10 03:20:07 2009

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