The mousetrap man: Interview with Mike Behe1
Dr Michael Behe is associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, USA. His book Darwin’s Black Box has caused quite a stir among Darwinists for its profound attack on ‘blind watchmaker’ evolution. It highlights ‘intelligent design’ as an obvious, logical explanation for the intricacy of biochemical systems found in living things.
Although biblical creationists have been able to make good use of his powerful arguments, Dr Behe does not claim to be on our side. When I spoke to him briefly on the phone for this article, he confirmed that ‘if there was good evidence for it [life coming about through some sort of evolutionary process], I would just accept that.’ A Roman Catholic, he says he does not have ‘any theological difficulties’ with the idea that we came from fish via ape-like ancestors.
His objection, he says, is scientific.
‘The Darwinian mechanism [selection by the environment, acting on chance inherited mistakes] does not look like it can produce what it claims to be able to produce.’
I knew he had praised Michael Denton’s book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. At the time, then-agnostic Denton seemed opposed to the whole idea that one basic type has transformed into another.2 Was Mike Behe convinced, for example, that reptiles had turned into birds? He replied,
‘No … well, I think it should be decided on the evidence. The idea of common descent has support, and also some problems. Right now, I’m willing to accept it as a reasonable working hypothesis, but I could always change my mind.’
Since he was not in principle opposed to ‘God using evolution,’ why was he being attacked by many prominent theistic evolutionists? Mike said,
‘Many Christians, particularly in academia, seem to think that not only is evolution by Darwinism possible, they think God should have done things that way, aesthetically.’
The notion that someone could think it ‘aesthetic’ for the holy God of the Bible to create via billions of years of death and accident blew my mind a little. Might not some of the opposition be because any Christian teaching Darwinism as scientific ‘fact’ would be severely embarrassed by Behe’s clear-cut scientific refutation of it?
Mike (who comes across as a very warm and polite person) replied,
‘Some Christians, especially in academia, feel pressure to accept the dominant scientific explanation for life. If they don’t, they’re relegated to kind of a second class intellectual status, no matter how smart they are. Even the best of people can succumb to sociological pressure like that.’
I asked Dr Behe about apparent ‘simulations’ of Darwinian evolution done on the computer, sometimes called ‘artificial life.’ He chuckled,
‘You can get pretty pictures and nice games on the computer, but even most Darwinians recognize that these simplistic models are a long way from the real, complex world of biology and chemistry.’
I put it to him that such ’arguments by analogy’ had strong psychological appeal, nevertheless. He said,
‘Sure. The Darwinists have a lot of good psychological tricks at their disposal.’
I knew that he had experienced the ‘flak’ and the frustrations of being in an oft-misrepresented minority position. So, could he understand the difficulties faced by those physicists and geologists who support six-day recent creation and the global Flood? He said yes; he sympathized with any scientist facing deeply entrenched sociological prejudices.
‘And I’m certainly open to the Bible being literally true, but I don’t have a theological need for that. If the physical evidence were presented to me I would decide on that basis.’
Diagram of a mousetrap with the components all required for any mouse trapping function
I decided to send him a gift subscription to Creation. It is my prayerful hope that it will spark an interest in the relationship between biblical authority, the Gospel, and science. I hope he will see that it is ultimately the Bible which explains the evidence, not the other way around [see Faith and facts]
Meanwhile, Michael Behe’s book (see review in Creation 19(2):29–30, 1997) continues to be extremely useful to creationists in exposing fallacies in Darwinism.
- Why ‘mousetrap man?’ Behe’s classic example of a system of ‘irreducible complexity’ is a mousetrap; take away any of its parts, and it can’t function. Likewise for many biochemical pathways in living cells, which thus could not have evolved step by step. Return to top.
- At present, Denton’s position may perhaps be best described as that of a ‘theistic transformist anti-Darwinist intelligent-design theorist.’ Return to text.