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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Mon Oct 12 2009 - 01:07:51 EDT

Heya John,

All I'll say in response here is that I agree we 'can't resort to their
tactics' or to lying. Absolutely. But I deny that Behe is doing that. In
fact, I think Behe's conduct is tremendously tame and polite.

As for Collins, I admire and respect him. But I don't think the reason he
avoids a lot of flak boils down to quite what you're saying here. Politics
plays a major role, and not everything that endears people to Collins has to
do with his modest tone - just as people are hostile to Behe for more
reasons than HIS tone (which, again, I honestly find it very hard to find
any fault with.)

But again, I think I've said all I can here. We agree with quite a lot, but
I don't think the two sides are at all comparable here. If I see an ID
proponent lying, I'll condemn it. If I see them engaging in other
disreputable acts, I'd be harshly critical. But I just cannot pretend that
Behe is analogous to, say... PZ Myers in terms of behavior, "tactics", and

On Mon, Oct 12, 2009 at 12:37 AM, John Walley <> wrote:

> Agreed with you on Behe's quote below but that immediately takes the
> discussion outside of science, at least as far as MN goes. I agree with Behe
> on it but I don't debate it with atheists or disparage their beliefs to the
> contrary. It is as futile as debating any other thorny theological
> issues like eternal security or infant baptism.
> I am glad we agree that ID is not science but I already knew why you
> defended it even before this candid admission of yours. It is obvious to
> most others already. But that is my point as well. Just because the atheists
> are getting away with lying, we can't resort to their tactics. Then we just
> play into their hands and make it worse. I know the deck is stacked against
> Behe, the fact that Carroll threw a childish tanturm and demanded the
> MacWhorter video be taken down is evidence of that. But the deck is stacked
> against Collins as well but he manages to avoid a lot of the flak that Behe
> gets. Why? Because he doesn't let their tactics get to him and doesn't take
> the bait of sinking to this level of response you are describing. This
> clouds your judgment and confuses science with faith and makes ID
> falsifiable and dismissable.
> I share your concerns and your efforts in trying to reach those that we
> can. But being a spiritual Barabbas is not what God will bless.
> John
> ------------------------------
> *From:* Schwarzwald <>
> *To:*
> *Sent:* Sat, October 10, 2009 10:31:42 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] Atheist finds God thru Behe's books....
> 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 Mon Oct 12 01:08:37 2009

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