- 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 (KZ): 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
- Michael Behe (MB): 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.
- 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.