Behe on why do some scientists still not accept intelligent design?

I came across a video put out by the Discovery Institute 6 days ago titled Michael Behe Answers Hard Questions: Why do some scientists still not accept intelligent design? The question came out of a follower (or several) of his that are amazed that more scientists don’t accept ID when the evidence for it is overwhelming. Behe’s response:

  • Scientists, just like everybody else are not logic machines. They’re smart but just don’t use logic without caring about other things too.
  • Professionals in their field have certain pride about their view. When Darwin first proposed his idea, many scientists were skeptical that his mechanism of random mutation and natural selection would work. But none-the-less Biologists jumped on it because they felt inferior to Physicists and Chemists. And Biologists would always have to worry about theologians and ministers since life obviously looks designed and they were worried the big questions would be answered by religion. After Darwin’s theory, they accepted it because they think that science should explain life without help from anybody.
  • There were some calculations in the 1920s and 30s that were wrong since they didn’t know about molecular machines or genetic codes or other complex things - and these things are much more easily broken than improved.
  • A lot of scientists, not the majority, but many prominent ones don’t like religion and don’t want the world to have been designed even if it was very helpful.

I’m not really sure what to do with this. He ends with a nice quote “it’s the job of science to describe the world as it is, not the way you want it to be.” It seems the main reasons Behe lists for biologists not accepting ID is pride, old calculations from the 1920s and bias against God. I feel sorry for his followers.


Thanks for the short video Matthew. Why didn’t you mention his most important and controversial point? - “that the more prominent scientists don’t like religion and just don’t want the world to be a design.”

But for me there is another important point that was left out. When I first heard the term “intelligent design” I felt this was my new banner, but once I listened to the backers describe their concept, I quickly distanced myself from it. ID has a long way to go before I will accept it as a logical elation of God’s involvement in the creation of the universe. ID as presented today is too religious and falls into Behe’s last category.

BThe appeal of having “special knowledge or understanding” is strong. It resulted in the formal Gnostic sects, and pulls on us today. I think the ID establishment has a unhealthy dose of it in their substance, as evidenced by the question posed stating that the evidence for ID was so overwhelming. Of course, Behe’s answer regarding pride touches on that, though it seems many in the ID world are blind to it in themselves.
As to his other points, some seem far fetched (I have never heard on any 1920’s calculations used in biology as an undergrad or since, and my undergrad years were way far closer to the 1920s than I am willing to accept.) and some just bizarre. I don’t recall anyone in biology feeling inferior to chemistry or physics, and today, the boundaries are blurred due to overlap of those disciplines. Projection perhaps?
As to scientists not liking religion, certainly many are not religious, but sadly I hear more often that Christians in science are better accepted at work by co-workers than they are at church by fellow Christians. Most non-Christian scientists simply do not care what you religious beliefs are from what I gather. The last part of his statement is also a head scratcher: What has ID put forth that is helpful to science?


This is of course an out and out lie. The evidence for ID is non-existent. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. The rhetoric for ID may be extensive, but the only thing overwhelming is the outright stubborn willful ignorance insisting on ID and creationism.

On the third part, me neither. But on the other three, here is what I say.

Yeah and sometimes they care about things like the Bible, theology, and Christianity – this ID creationists nonsense is killing them!

In other words… the theory of evolution provided the first basis for any theoretical biology whatsoever, much to the consternation of religious dogmatists (and others who make a living on religion) who would really prefer no scientific inquiry into questions about the nature and origins of life and thus for biologists to stick to observation and classification only.


All scientists, even the Christian ones, do not like theologians sticking their noses into science and thus trying to replace the methodology of science with the emptiness of mere rhetoric.

It is the job of science to describe the world as shown by the objective evidence from written procedures giving the same results no matter what you believe and not the way you insist that the world “really is.”


After reading the bullet points in the opening post, I can’t help but conclude that all of them apply to Behe himself. It reads more like a textbook case of psychological projection than it does a scientific treatise.

Many of Behe’s premises are logical fallacies, such as his contention that if he can’t think of a stepwise process for a system to arise then there isn’t one. Much of his argument is based on the logical fallacies of personal incredulity, arguments from ignorance, false dichotomies, and shifting the burden of proof.

First, Darwin didn’t say anything about random mutation. That idea wasn’t fleshed out until the 1940’s with the work done by Luria, Delbruck and Joshua and Esther Lederberg. Darwin’s main contribution was natural selection, but he was always unsure of how variation arose.

Biologists accepted evolution because of the evidence, not because of some philosophical need for a non-teleological or natural explanation. An absolutely wonderful essay by George Romanes written in 1882 describes the evidence that was driving acceptance of the theory, and it is a very different story than what Behe describes:

“The Scientific Evidences of Organic Evolution”, George Romanes, 1882

Behe ignores the massive problems with his own calculations, and ignores negative selection.

A lot of scientists don’t like flat Earthers. That doesn’t mean the Earth is flat. Perhaps Behe should revisit his criticism of scientists not using logic and apply it here.


The one thing I can say about this is that it just doesn’t work with the way scientists learn and study and do scientific research. They learn by repeating experiments and calculations themselves. How else are they to learn how the experiments and theoretical calculations work? And they are looking for any mistakes with a fine tooth comb because that is their chance to write their own PHD thesis or other publications. For 45 years physicists have been actively trying to break the Standard Model by finding some place where it doesn’t work because that would open the door to new discoveries, experiments, publications, and all the money that comes with such things. That is what drives science and so to suggest that somebody made a mistake 100 years ago and people just accepted this without testing it is absurd. Science just doesn’t work that way.

As im reading trough the comments i want to raise a few questions yet again. So the number of scientists who reject a creator trough EC is decreasing. So at what stage would science be about 20 years from now? Will all the christians scientists gone? Will there be no one left in that field? And if so wouldnt it affect the world as to its view on science? Thanks

What evidence do you have of these claims?

I dont have any statistics pr something. But isnt the article saying that more and more scientists are rejecting God?


I’m equally amazed that fellow scientists don’t just out-and-out ask how Behe imagines anyone being able to test God, or his activities, without being able to isolate God as an independent variable!

There is an experiment in a box, that assumes God, and a control box where God is not assumed. The latter box could even have a warning sign:

“God, please ignore this box!”

Frankly, Behe’s viewpoint reminds me of the Christian Alchemists who thought they could perform amazing feats of “natural philosophy” by invoking God or his servant angels. After a while, people moved on, because Christian Alchemy didn’t seem to accomplish anything special or different.


I have asked that myself. It is also curious that Behe seems to suggest that God is no longer designing anything. I’m not sure what has led Behe to conclude this. For example, he doesn’t expect an IC system to appear in the lab, nor did he expect to see any signal of design in the evolution of the polar and brown bear as discussed in his latest book. Why is that?

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When his position was more mysterious, there was a chance he had a sensible approach. But the more detailed he gets, the less sense any of it makes…

You mean Michael Behe’s video? It almost seems as if he’s making random stuff up throughout the video. Very little of what is said contains any substance unfortunately.

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Okay I haven’t watched the video and I really only read Behe’s first book, but in general I am thankful for a lot of the work of The Discovery Institute. Now at the Biologos Conference in Baltimore, chemistry professor Larry Funck gave a talk, and when he came to LUCA he said that at this point the only real conclusion is, “God did it.” So a couple of us pressed him to explain how that answer differed from Intelligent Design. And I talked to him afterward to press him on that more, and what I finally understood was that he was saying that his belief in God does not rest on a very high probability of design (which is a way to understand Intelligent Design). He believes God is self-evident regardless of the science. I really liked that answer. (I hope I’m portraying it accurately.)

But, for example, still addressing LUCA, several of my high schoolers were really encouraged by the Youtube video of Rice chemistry professor James Tour’s recent talk. (I’m at a Chinese church in Houston so several of my kids are headed to Rice or the Ivy League.) And it was also edifying to see Tour apologize for losing track and saying that another professor lied.

So I try to see the different groups (including Biologos, Reasons to Believe, and The Discovery Institute) with a similar kind of lens as for viewing the 7 churches in Revelation. Most of them do some things well but other things not so well, and we must strive our hardest to remain faithful, available, and teachable and press on. I have high hopes that the relationship will be one of iron sharpening iron.

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Maybe there could be more points to discuss, which if you find some good claims in particular we can start a new thread just for those. The video is maybe 5 minutes long and I tried to summarize his main points. Each of them appears to be lacking substance and have some wrong basic facts as @T_aquaticus and others have noted so far.

I’m glad that set well with you though I and several others found that section of the presentation indicative of a terrible problem the discovery institute has…

The lie that scientists have been fooled and are biased by X.

It’s a talking point of every anti-science organization. X can be anything from funding to acceptance in the elite science club to a bias against God. Not surprisingly, Tour’s talk echoes Behe’s five minutes in many ways and the strength of supernatural explanations tends to be inversely proportional to our ability to scientifically explain some observation.

Well the reason I haven’t read the books is that I just don’t have the bandwidth for any of that debate. I did watch the James Tour video for my kids and did find it impressive. I’m certainly glad he apologized for saying that other scientist lied. But I mean here in this thread Behe has been called a liar as well. I certainly don’t want to succumb to that sort of thing. Nevertheless, as I listened to Tour, I admit I felt like I could sympathize with his frustration because it reminded me of the frustration I feel in defending against materialism–which is the only debate I really have the bandwidth for though I left that thread earlier today (you left it right away) because I have such a busy weekend. (But the middle school boys over for a birthday party right now don’t need as much parental involvement as they used too, <=), so here I am.)

Anyway, I don’t see anything wrong with presenting positive arguments in favor of God. Both Behe and Tour should stick with that and avoid going on the attack. Again, if I compared it to the debate with materialism, I wouldn’t call materialism a lie, but I would say that it is 100% arbitrary and unnecessary and that it very conveniently confines faith in God to mysticism and emotion and morality. Those are of course valid, but very limiting. Besides that, I’m fully convinced–following with many NON-intelligent design scientists–that the presuppositions are just plane, flat out wrong. Not a lie, but incredibly wrong. Ah, here I’m being pulled in again, feeling frustrated. I’m much happier presenting all the positive evidence for an immaterial reality than in attacking the presuppositions. Okay, the boys have gotten suspiciously quiet.

A simple example from this video is that whenever Behe said that many scientists were skeptical when Darwin first proposed his ideas of random mutation and natural selection - despite the fact that random mutations as a mechanism was not actually proposed by Darwin - that’s not a lie? It is a pretty obvious one and I’m tired of making excuses for sloppy making up of random facts. I’ve seen it happen far too often with Christians speaking about Darwin in particular. Also missing from Behe’s discussion is the fact that Biologists did and still do actually accept evolution thanks to the evidence. That’s also pretty important.

What was Tour frustrated about again? He seemed to be making up imaginary scenarios picking on cartoons representations of actual scientific literature without being familiar with it himself and then calling actual origins of life researchers liars.

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Just going by your account, no, I would not call that a lie:

  • Many scientists were skeptical when Darwin first proposed his ideas. Okay, so far so good.
  • Darwin proposed natural selection. Okay.
  • Darwin proposed random mutation? No, incorrect. We call that sloppy rhetoric. But a lie? Wouldn’t it actually enlarge Darwin’s accomplishments to attribute the theory of random mutation to him? I understand your frustration, but you can’t so quickly throw your brother under the bus.

As to Tour, wow, he has been viciously, meticulously accused of pathological lying throughout his entire talk. And it is all so complex, who am I to believe? I can’t go get a degree in chemistry. But I must admit that Tour’s overall claim (especially in light of Funck having said “God did it”) that origin of life science was making little to no headway–that was persuasive.

And in the background for me is always the foundational issue of materialism. Listen, you’re a physicist, right? This should be right down your ally–to observe the absence of physical qualities in something. Can I press you on the example we ended with at the end of the other thread: Is Euler’s Identity a physical phenomenon (whether matter or energy) or not? Because according to the naturalistic establishment, the actual equation itself simply must be a physical phenomenon, whether neurons or electrons or whatever. There is no other option. Immaterial phenomenon (pure abstractions or patterns or whatever you want to call them) simply cannot exist, end of discussion. (I can quote you many leading scientists on that.) Because if they did exist, that would mean that our minds are likewise nonphysical…to say the least.

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It’s not necessarily a matter of who to believe, but it’s a matter of what the actual scientific evidence is. it doesn’t matter what tour thinks, nor does it even matter what any single origins of Life researcher thinks. out of the two of course, an actual origins of Life researcher would be able to much better speak to all of the things tour sometimes mistakenly speaks on. So at the end of the day, what you would need to figure out is whether tour or say if you watched a video by Dave Deamer who recently wrote a nice popular level book on the origins of life, which of the two is accurately representing the state of scientific research.

That is a pretty big mischaracterization of all of the things we’ve learned over the past 50 years or so. And I would gently caution against using a lack of a scientific explanation as any kind of evidence or even pointer to God.

it’s a really interesting question as to where various laws or rules of nature come from. Are they emergent properties out of some larger overarching model. Some of them are. But others we don’t really know. So I actually will refrain from speculation and admit ignorance from physicists on the topic.


I think there’s some historical basis in the idea that those who studied biology were looking for mechanistic theories that would parallel the success of physics – but that’s just my impression. As for biologists these days, I don’t think there’s much of a feeling of inferiority to physicists. But there’s certainly a feeling of superiority among physicists. When I was a physicist, I had the strong impression that many physicists believed that everybody else really want to be a physicist – they just weren’t good enough. And there’s this:


“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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