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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sat Oct 10 2009 - 22:31:42 EDT

Heya John,

For a fair rendering, again I'd disagree. Behe makes it clear that his
inference to God as the designer is not a scientific conclusion - and he
also makes it clear that he considered God as the designer before he even
began questioning darwinian evolution. He does suggest that design be put on
the table as a possibility, even as a best inference. But 'design' does not
get someone to 'God' - nor does 'design' mean 'Well, we can't study this
further, it's an uncrossable gap!'

Second, Behe isn't disqualifying Darwinian evolution across the board. He's
said clearly that Darwinian evolution is real and does have a role in
evolution (it can accomplish certain, though by his measure far more
restrained tasks), so it isn't as if he's attempting to dismiss Darwinism
completely. Here's a quote right from Behe in this interview:

"Well you can never be completely sure in science. Itís the nature of the
discipline and I never claimed and certainly donít now that I have some sort
of logical proof for design and so on. But, with science you gotta go with
the evidence, where the evidence is pointing and in my mind itís clearly
pointing strongly to design or something very similar to it."

In other words, Behe is not taking the position of "It absolutely is not
Darwinian evolution, and therefore it is design, and therefore it is God."
He's taking a much more tame view - namely that the evidence isn't pointing
at Darwinian evolution across the board, and that there is an inference to
design present. What's more, that inference is not only rational but one
which people (I suppose biologists in particular) should be able to take as
a best inference from the data. I fail to see how Behe is at all comparable
to those "idolaters" you speak of. Maybe other ID proponents fit that bill,
but Behe's claim/presentation is very measured and tame.

Now, here's the kicker for me. You called me out about, yes, I think even
"darwinian evolution" cannot be scientifically demonstrated to be unguided.
Here's my view: One can't scientifically demonstrate design either,
certainly not design on the level of God. I think Behe makes some great
points about popular evolutionary models, I think he's extremely effective
in presentation (one reason, as Cameron noted - he never fails to be polite
and level-headed, despite taking on some deep and unwarranted insults). But
now, and for a long time, I'm tremendously hesitant to call ID science.

You can reasonably ask, then why am I defending Behe, and ID in a broader
sense? To which I'd reply: Because the handling of this issue is
dramatically lopsided. When Behe makes a very tame and well-supported
criticism of the Darwinian model of evolution and suggests design could
reasonably be inferred, suddenly that's an act of war on science itself.
He's a stealth-YEC (despite being on record as believing in common descent,
an old earth, etc)! He's saying he proves God exists (even though he
repeatedly stresses the difference between his personal beliefs and what can
be inferred by science)! He's denying evolution across the board (even
though he's open to directed evolution, and he admits Darwinian evolution is
real and can accomplish some things - just not what many think)! The NCSE
will march against him, reviews will be printed from scientists denouncing
him, misinterpreting him, etc. We'll be reminded, time and again, that
science cannot prove or disprove God, that "methodological naturalism" rules
the day and any reference to design is unscientific regardless of how it's
supported, etc.

Now, take the other position: Argue evolution disproves the existence of
God. Argue evolution proves life was not designed, that life and humanity
and everything else was unguided. The same people who scream about the
importance of keeping these views to their proper spheres suddenly go quiet.
Apparently keeping questions of design and evolution distinct only matters
if you infer design. Infer the lack of design - hell, don't just infer,
claim it falsified, disproven - and no one cares. All that talk about the
importance of keeping science free of philosophy or (a)theology goes right
out the window, and when pressed, the usual defenders of science tend to
shrug their shoulders and say 'Well, he's just expressing his opinion, he's
entitled to that.'

Well, sorry - I'm calling BS on that attitude. If 'undesigned' inferences
are valid and scientific - or even if they're simply tolerated as acceptable
conclusions, with their 'scientific' status ignored and unquestioned - then
so too are 'designed', even if such conclusions are unpopular, even if they
go against the orthodoxy. If such topics are to be confined to their
respective spheres, then confine them. I would much rather that both
'designed' and 'undesigned' issues be restricted to the appropriate spheres
of philosophy and theology, and have the scientific realm be purely about
models and data (with recognition of the limitations of science as well). On
the other hand, I'm not going to pretend it's in such a state when it
clearly isn't.

Keep in mind, John, that this isn't just about those extremists/'idolaters'
you speak of. They want to "make up the minds" of others. So I'm not
concerned with reaching them - I'm concerned with reaching the people they
want to reach.

On Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 9:25 PM, John Walley <> wrote:

> "I don't think "There is no way that it could evolve by Darwinian
> evolution. Therefore God did it." is a fair rendering of Behe's view here
> whatsoever."
> First of all, that was Bernie statement not mine, but I did agree with
> Bernie on it, and at least from that one video it does seem to me to be a
> fairly accurate synopsis of his views. I am sure he has speculated,
> discussed, considered and maybe even written many other things at other
> times, but when given an opportunity to make whatever points he wanted with
> McWhorter, this is pretty much what he chose to say.
> As far as Darwinian vs other forms of evolution, he chose to bring that out
> several times in the interview. On the one hand you could say it means he is
> only disqualifying Darwinian evolution and therefore open to others but all
> forms of evolution have the random mutation component and the specific issue
> he takes with Darwinian evolution is only a matter of degree. Darwin could
> not have known and Behe himself does not know where the final line is drawn
> on what random mutation can and cannot do so it is hardly useful for this to
> be the criteria to dismiss Darwinian evolution. In truth, Behe is using this
> to oppose Darwin's ideological baggage and this just perpetuates the death
> struggle.
> You said yourself that 'Darwinian' evolution can never be scientifically
> demonstrated to be unguided" and I agree with that so how do we
> scientifically demonstrate that it is guided? If one is a fool's errand then
> why isn't the other one? You and I agree to "recognize Darwin's
> shortcomings and the limitations of known mechanisms and admit, atheist and
> theist alike, that there's a faith/belief component to our views of
> evolution" and I think this would be good advice for Behe as well. I know
> there are Darwin idolaters out there but we cant reach them anyway, and
> confusing science with faith only marginalizes your credibility with the
> more objective ones. Fighting fire with fire is not the most effective
> strategy here. Just fight to define what is science and what is faith on
> both sides and let people make up their own mind.
> John
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Sat, October 10, 2009 6:01:13 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> Heya John,
> I don't think "There is no way that it could evolve by Darwinian
> evolution. Therefore God did it." is a fair rendering of Behe's view here
> whatsoever. He's openly speculated about other possible mechanisms,
> including evolutionary ones (front-loading, etc.) He makes it clear that
> even an inference to design is not enough to get one to God as far as the
> science goes. He does not suggest shrugging our shoulders and ceasing to
> investigate evolution. I also reject, if I have you correct on this, the
> idea that Behe is doubtful of -all- evolution rather than just "Darwinian"
> evolution. Not all evolution is Darwinian evolution - not all evolution is
> classified as unguided. (Personally, I'm of the mind that even purely
> 'Darwinian' evolution can never be scientifically demonstrated to be
> unguided, so a lot of this is a curiosity for me rather than a major issue.)
> Now, you say you reject the "Darwinian" label because it's so obvious that
> Darwin was wrong about some major issues. I happen to agree with that. The
> problem is, Darwin is a tremendously important figure for some people. Even
> on subjects where he was clearly, radically wrong (what cells are, for
> example) his being wrong is downplayed, ignored, and even bringing up as
> much is a serious faux pas. The "Darwin Was Wrong" cover of New Scientist
> earlier this year sparked quite a lot of outrage among a number of regular
> Darwin defenders (you may write them off as radical atheists) purely for the
> sin of loudly pointing out Darwin being incorrect. There's too much at stake
> - not scientifically, but socially and politically - for Darwin's
> shortcomings to be recognized.
> Which is why I think your level-headed position - let's recognize Darwin's
> shortcomings and the limitations of known mechanisms and admit, atheist and
> theist alike, that there's a faith/belief component to our views of
> evolution - can't be accepted. And I don't think the playing field is equal
> here - the ID camp would be absolutely overjoyed for both parties to admit
> that our understanding of evolution and biological development is radically
> incomplete. For atheists (I'm speaking here of the outspoken, animated
> variety of new atheist we all know of), this would be unthinkable. The
> entire utility of Darwin for them is in the supposed scientific certitude
> that life, particularly human life, came about via unguided means. If that
> becomes a mere possibility rather than the stuff of in essence certainty,
> it's hard to distinguish that from defeat for them. Go look at the reactions
> many had when Paul Davies offhandedly pointed out that simple belief in
> things like 'laws of nature', and therefore science in general, proceeds on
> faith. It wasn't pretty.
> I suppose another way of saying what I'm saying here is - this isn't about
> science alone. Certainly not for ID proponents or even TEs. Certainly not
> for atheists. What we're seeing in this discussion are largely political
> maneuverings in the service of goals that have little to nothing to do with
> evolution, or even science.
> On Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 5:18 PM, John Walley <>wrote:
>> "There is no way that it could evolve by Darwinian evolution. Therefore
>> God did it."
>> In this I agree with Bernie. I think Behe needlessly conflates evolution
>> with Darwinian evolution. And he uses the ideological (atheist) baggage of
>> "Darwinian" evolution (ala Martinez Hewlett) to attack evolution itself,
>> leaving some mystical "God did it" mechanism as the result.
>> To me the Darwinian qualifier is meaningless and irrelevant. I think the
>> valid scientific claims of Darwin were common descent, random mutation and
>> natural selection and on these I agree with him. What Darwin didn't know was
>> that these alone were not sufficient to explain all of evolution but they do
>> explain a good bit of it. More on this in a second.
>> The unguided abiogenesis musing was conditional and he himself said "But
>> if (and Oh! what a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond" so
>> it does not deserve to be counted among the above scientifically verifiable
>> claims. I know Dawkins and the atheists try to smuggle that in with the rest
>> of Darwin that have been verified but it is a Trojan Horse strategy. Both
>> the atheists and the Christians need to decouple the personal unbelief of
>> Darwin with his otherwise scientific claims because first they don't matter
>> and they only serve to confuse the actual science. On this I agree with
>> Bernie that Behe fails to do this and I think he unfairly tries to demonize
>> evolution itself by associating it with Darwin's atheism and countering it
>> with direct intervention by God.
>> Now as to how much of evolution can Darwin's scientifically testable
>> claims explain, I think Behe has made some valid points as to the
>> limitations of at least single point mutations. However in fairness Darwin
>> and no one else could know how limited this could have been in his day so it
>> was a very plausible theory at the time. Now only the die hard atheist
>> kool-aid drinkers can defend the random mutation alone hypothesis and there
>> is no point in debating that because it is just as much a position of faith
>> as Behe's direct intervention.
>> Again the false dilemma is between the atheist position of rejecting God
>> by rejecting intervention and appealing to naturalism of the gaps in spite
>> of all the complexity and odds against it on one hand, and rejecting
>> evolution because of the atheist implications and appealing to God of the
>> gaps to have somehow done it in some mystical way but just not through
>> evolution on the other hand. The only rational way to resolve this is to
>> accept the known mechanisms of evolution and to see them supplemented with
>> the belief (not science) of unknown but guided processes. This leaves us at
>> a level playing field with the atheist without giving either side an
>> advantage and both resorting to their faith to complete the picture. I don't
>> think Behe and ID in general is willing to do this and instead he wants to
>> insist on the imprimatur of science to support his side which is exactly
>> what the atheist wants as well so we have the ongoing death struggle between
>> the two
>> camps.
>> This is where I think Collins has a superior response because it is a
>> scientific inference and not ideologically driven like the other two
>> extremes. It also just happens to be much easier to defend as well.
>> Thanks
>> John
>> ----- Original Message ----
>> From: Cameron Wybrow <>
>> To: asa <>
>> Sent: Sat, October 10, 2009 4:31:16 PM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
>> Bernie, you wrote:
>> "I admit I also haven't read his books".
>> Within the normal conventions of conversation and the English language,
>> this sentence has only one possible meaning. It means that you have read
>> neither *Darwin's Black Box* nor *The Edge of Evolution*.
>> You now say, as if in contradiction to what you wrote earlier:
>> "I wasn't clear when I said I didn't read Behe; I meant I didn't read his
>> latest. I saw much of his earlier stuff."
>> This is muddy. *Darwin's Black Box* was part of Behe's "earlier stuff".
>> So is that what you "saw"? Does "saw" mean "read"? And if so, "read in its
>> entirety"? (Including all the detailed biochemical argument?) Or does it
>> mean only "skimmed"? Or does it mean only "looked at the cover of"? (Which
>> would be the normal meaning of "saw".) And if not *Darwin's Black Box*,
>> what "earlier stuff" did you read?
>> This sounds evasive, Bernie. Either you've read Behe's books all the way
>> through or you haven't. First you admitted you hadn't, and now you are
>> clouding the issue. The issue is: what have you read, and how thoroughly
>> did you read it?
>> On another point: You do not seem to understand why Behe is very careful
>> to use the word "Darwinian". He is not against "evolution". By speaking
>> against "Darwinian evolution" he is speaking against a model of evolution
>> entirely dependent on unguided and unplanned processes. In contrast, Behe
>> has praised the evolutionary writing of Michael Denton, who is not a
>> Darwinian and asserts that the universe was fine-tuned in advance for
>> biological evolution.
>> With you, Bernie, Behe can't win. If he criticized "evolution" by itself,
>> without the adjective "Darwinian", you'd be all over him for being a YEC,
>> for denying the genetic evidence for common descent, etc. But when he puts
>> the adjective "Darwinian" in, precisely so that he won't be misunderstood,
>> you're all over him for that.
>> On another point: Behe agrees that features of the human genome tend to
>> indicate our descent (on the physical as opposed to the spiritual side) from
>> an apelike creature. It does not follow that he would agree with you about
>> the *causes* of this process. Lipstick on the husband's collar doesn't
>> prove which woman he was kissing, or where the tryst took place, or what the
>> husband's motives were for straying. There is a great deal still to be
>> explained.
>> There is no God-of-the-gaps argument in Behe. The accusation of
>> "God-of-the-gaps" arguments always presumes that science has built up a very
>> tight structure of explanation, with only a few "gaps" remaining to be
>> filled. Thus, if someone were to argue that the erratic orbit of Pluto
>> disproves the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system, and
>> infers that God personally placed each planet (or at the very least, Pluto)
>> in a unique orbit, that would be an example of "God of the gaps", because it
>> would rest entirely on a temporary failure of explanation of a model which
>> can explain everything but Pluto very well, and might be able to be adjusted
>> to account even for the orbit of Pluto. But if you understand Behe's
>> argument, you will know that he rejects the premise that Darwinian
>> explanation is tight and virtually complete, with just a few holes here and
>> there. Biochemically speaking, he argues, Darwinian explanation is
>> virtually *all*
>> gaps. There are no satisfying biochemical explanations for how *any* of
>> the necessary evolutionary distances were traversed by Darwinian means. The
>> fact that you speak of "God of the gaps" indicates that you accept (from
>> Behe's point of view) a massive overestimation, and hence false description,
>> of our state of knowledge.
>> Cameron.
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Dehler, Bernie" <
>> To: "asa" <>
>> Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2009 1:33 PM
>> Subject: RE: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
>> > Hi John-
>> >
>> > When I listened to Behe, I thought the opposite of you. I thought "If
>> he has a point, the truth, then the rest of the world will eventually
>> catch-up with him. He'll go down in history as a first-rate scientist
>> making this breakthrough, probably as big as Darwin, since his new theory
>> significantly either breaks evolution or adds to it in some major new way."
>> >
>> > I know his university and peers give him trouble. However, they could
>> also go down in history if they gave him support, if Behe turned out to be
>> right.
>> >
>> > However, they should only give him support if there's at least some hope
>> or possibility for him being right. If there is a possibility, it seems
>> like it should be a good thing to be creating alternate hypotheses, even
>> radical (the more radical, the better, like Darwin).
>> >
>> > So really, I disagree about even looking at consequences. I say follow
>> the truth, regardless of consequences. There's nothing wrong at all with
>> making waves, if you have a possibility of being right.
>> >
>> > So for me, the bottom line is, "does he have a chance at being right?"
>> >
>> > I asked for a concise statement for the ID hypothesis. Mike (Nucacids)
>> gave it, thanks. I realized after writing that, what I really meant is
>> "what evidence is there to test the hypothesis." (BTW- sorry Cameron, I
>> wasn't clear when I said I didn't read Behe; I meant I didn't read his
>> latest. I saw much of his earlier stuff. You seem to pick-up on some of
>> the most trivial points sometimes.)
>> >
>> > After listening to the 40 min. video- it is clear that Behe thinks, and
>> says many times, that his examples demonstrate "it is impossible for
>> Darwinian mechanisms to produce them." It seemed like he never says
>> "evolution" without the adjective "Darwinian." That is what seems so stupid
>> to me, for people to only look to natural selection and random mutation as
>> if that is the only mechanisms for evolution... there are many more
>> (discovered since Darwin), and more to be discovered, I'm sure. So
>> basically what evidence does Behe have for his hypothesis? It is "Look at
>> this (insert mouse-trap type object). There is no way that it could evolve
>> by Darwinian evolution. Therefore God did it." Why is it not so obvious to
>> everyone that the theory jumps right from "Darwinian evolution can't do it"
>> -> "we don't know how it could evolve" -> "therefore God did it all at once
>> by speaking it into existence."
>> >
>> > It looks exactly like a 'science-stopper' to me.
>> >
>> > In Paley's day, he could have said the same (probably did). "Look at
>> the complexity of humans. We are too far above animals. We had to be made
>> by fiat... God's spoken word, directly, uniquely." Now pseudogenes show
>> beyond a reasonable doubt that humans descended from an apelike creature.
>> His logic was proven false in the same way, which was "Isn't it amazing and
>> wonderful" -> "We don't know how it could happen" -> "God did it by special
>> creation."
>> >
>> > A rush to "god of the gaps" is very unhealthy for science (even fatal).
>> In this way, when confronted with a scientific mystery, the answer is "God
>> did it! You'll never find the answer because God just did it!" Maybe God
>> did "just do it." But the job of science is to strive to figure out how
>> nature might do it, and by looking into this over the centuries, mankind has
>> been shocked as to what can be found out, and discarded "God did it" many
>> times already.
>> >
>> > ...Bernie
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Received on Sat Oct 10 22:33:07 2009

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