Science v Intelligent Design: Miller v Behe Bad science and Bad theology

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On Amazon, Behe has been making the ‘argument’ that not only Miller is an ‘Intelligent Design’ proponent but also that Miller is (in large part) motivated by theology to embrace Darwinism.

Behe Wrote:

So there you have it. Miller (and Ayala) won’t tolerate life on earth being designed because that would impugn God’s reputation. Too many bad things inhabit the earth. They embrace Darwinism, at least in large part, for theological reasons.

all because Miller observes that

To Behe, these are not byproducts of a fruitful and creative natural world that also gave us the beauty of a sunset, the grace of an eagle, and the talent of a Beethoven. No, each vicious parasite and fatal disease is the direct and intentional work of the designer. This isn’t my conclusion; it’s Behe’s.

Yet in Miller’s scathing review, he clearly states his position

A hopeful reader might be forgiven if be dismissed my criticisms as little more than partisan carping from a true believer from the “evolutionist” camp. After all, if God exists, he would indeed be an “intelligent designer” of the very biggest order. So, why shouldn’t we regard this provocative book as a helpful and timely scientific defense against the forces of atheistic materialism? One reason, as I mentioned, is that what it says is wrong. Its scientific arguments are built on a mistakenly improbable view of evolution. There is, however, a deeper reason that will also be of interest to Commonweal readers: Bebe’s view of the designer.

In other words, Miller reject Behe’s “Intelligent Design” claims not because they disagree that there is a Designer (God) but because they lack in scientific quality and because they involve poor theology. Since the review is for Christian magazine, and since Miller is a Christian himself, it is important for the readers to understand why Behe’s position is not only scientifically flawed, but also theologically lacking.

And yet, Behe turns this into a statement that “They embrace Darwinism, at least in large part, for theological reasons.” This seems highly inconsistent with Miller’s position, as inconsistent as Behe’s claim that Miller is an Intelligent Design proponent just like Behe, only differing in intensity. This claim, which has been described as a classical ‘bait and switch’, conflates the meaning of the term “intelligent design” with the term “Intelligent Design”. The former a relatively unimpressive claim that defines design to be equivalent to our ignorance, the latter, the concept that God created our Universe and life within. It should be clear that Miller would soundly reject any suggestion that he is an “intelligent design” proponent similar to Behe even though they believe in the same God. What Behe however suggests is that the two concepts, in his mind at least, are quite similar. A conclusion with which the Judge in the Dover trial concurred.

After showing the theological problems with Behe’s position, Miller returns to the ‘science’ aspects of Behe:

Even more confusing is Behe’s attempt to meld this version of design with science. He tries to argue that his God need not intervene to produce change because “the purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of natural laws.” Really? Bebe has just provided two hundred pages of passionate arguments that natural laws are not sufficient to explain evolutionary change, only to turn around and claim that they are. His core argument is that the natural laws that produce mutations cannot generate the diversity needed to explain evolutionnry change. Then he insists that the unfolding of our universe is governed entirely by those same natural laws. And Behe does nothing to dispel this self-contradiction.

Miller explain why ID is unnecessarily risky theologically speaking (and vacuous/infertile scientifically speaking).

In reality, the scientific and theological confusion promoted by this book are completely unnecessary. At the conclusion of the Dover trial, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer summed up the theological confusion of the ID movement this way:

How ridiculous to make evolution the enemy of God. What could be more elegant, more simple, more brilliant, more economical, more creative, indeed more divine than a planet with millions of life forms, distinct and yet Interactive, all ultimately derived from accumulated variations in a single double- stranded molecule, pliable and fecund enough to give us mollusks and mice, Newton and Einstein? Even if it did give us the Kansas State Board of Education, too.

Regrettably, Behe has missed again an opportunity to address Miller’s real arguments and instead found it necessary to suggest that Miller holds his scientific views largely because of theological concerns, totally missing the points Miller is making. Nevertheless, it is somewhat ironic to see Behe trying to impugn Miller by claiming “Wow, and they say ID proponents get their conclusions from religious motives!”. What a beautiful strawman which forces Behe to ignore the scientific objections of Miller to Behe’s claims and instead ‘argue’ that since Miller also stated that the flawed theology of Behe’s position should be of concern of the Christian readers, that Miller is motivated (mostly) by religion. It should come as no surprise that the media and PR director of the CSC, Robert Crowther, has blogged on Behe’s ‘claims’.

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Bad Theology and ID from Threads from Henry's Web on October 30, 2007 4:13 PM

Quite frequently in the debate over Intelligent Design someone mentions that ID is “bad theology.” That someone might even be me! The problem is that it is not all that easy to delineate just what is bad theology. My bad theology may wel... Read More


Behe and the other dishonest purveyors of dissembling claims are doing their best to turn the requirements of science, which is to know something about a purported cause, into a theological position. This is more or less the peak and source of their lack of scientific honesty, unsurprisingly.

Sure, we object to Behe’s filthy little God who designs malaria to afflict humans. But on the science front (you know, where they constantly refuse to engage), malaria is perfectly understandable on non-teleological evolutionary grounds, and impossible to understand in terms of design. For there is no evident purpose or rationality behind the endless struggles between hosts and pathogens, while such purposeless (and from our viewpoint, cruel) adaptation is what “Darwinism” is all about.

Of course we supply reasonable attributes to their “designer” when we consider the possibility (they continually bray that we don’t consider their claims, yet when we do, which is often, they whine that we turn it into a somewhat scientific claim by turning their “cause” into something specific and testable), since we’re not going to consider a meaningless “cause” for specific effects. We may do this by supplying human capabilities and purposes to the designer without invoking any God, and we often do this. However, we may also notice that Behe, Dembski, and Johnson already have a designer-God in mind, and do not hide it very well. This designer-God appears to be rather anthropomorphic in nature, in fact, so it is rather easy to swap out any “designer” that fits the conventional meaning of that word (conventional meanings are all that we have, really) with their God, and note that neither one accounts for malaria.

Behe’s droning on again, again in attack mode, that we ought to have no expectations for the designer, putting his theological claim well beyond any type of science. But it plays well enough among the yahoos to accuse Miller of using theology to deny the designer, hence Miller’s mention of theodicy among theists becomes Behe’s vehicle to once again deny the legitimacy of our rather basic point that the designer must have some sort of expected manner of designing if it is to be considered in any way to be scientific. His utterly worthless and nihilistic designer becomes the theological standard against which the actual causal predictions necessary in science are judged to be inappropriate.

So yes, once again it is Behe who is being theological, if in a disgusting vein that would turn any potential converts away from such a God. Miller objects to Behe’s “designer” on both scientific and religious grounds (it is possible for the two ways of thinking to be compatible, which they tend to be in Miller’s ideas about the evolution of life), and let’s just say it as it is, Behe is lying through his teeth about anything and everything.

Glen D

Didn’t we already discuss this here?[…]ntel-12.html

No need to beat a dead horse into a skeleton.

Miller’s review is well worth a more in depth discussion and I hope to provide a more detailed overview of Miller’s claims. Needless to say Miller was not impressed

Dale Husband suggests: No need to beat a dead horse into a skeleton.

What else would be more appropriate for a course in comparative morphology?

Delta Pi Gamma (Scientia et Fermentum)

I see this as more confirmation of what I always say, that ID/creationism is propaganda in support of an agenda, and not remotely spontaneous, honest scholarly work. Superficially a religious agenda, in practice an authoritarian and harsh social and political agenda that ostensibly follows from the religious precepts.

ID/creationists cannot accept that someone can be interested in science for its own sake. Projecting, they constantly make ridiculous claims that scientists are motivated by some kind of social or political agenda, and that the scientific work is a mere device. Usually they claim that scientists are studying bacteria or black holes in an effort to advance “atheism” or “secular humanism” or “liberalism”; here, since Miller is Catholic, he’s said to be doing biology in a disingenuous effort to justify and advance some Catholic agenda. The reality - that Miller is a scientist who is coincidentally Catholic - is beyond their comprehension.

These are a special kind of people. They can’t grasp that someone might be interested in a scholarly or artistic field for its own merits and the satisfaction it brings. That concept is apparently alien to them.

They’re work is nonsense that no-one would think of honestly and spontaneously, spun to defend a social, political, and religious agenda, yes. Real science is just science.

The theological high-wire act that is Creationism starts a ways back from the problem of evil, doesn’t it?

The very most basic claim, that you can in theory find empirical evidence to prove the existence of god, explicitly requires that it’s possible also that empirical evidence might disprove the existence of god. Whence faith, Behe? Whence Popper, Miller?


The very most basic claim, that you can in theory find empirical evidence to prove the existence of god, explicitly requires that it’s possible also that empirical evidence might disprove the existence of god.

No, no, can’t you understand: any evidence that disproves God must be the work of the devil!

Great post. Ken Miller is seriously one of my heroes… A good scientist and a good writer, and he doesn’t have a problem accepting both evolution and God. He also understands that you don’t use religion to come up with science, or science to prove/disprove the existence of God.

No, no, can’t you understand: any evidence that disproves God must be the work of the devil!

Hence “God of the Gaps”

But Miller clearly does have theological reasons for advocating mainstream evolution.

Sure, they are not his primary reasons, but they are a factor.

Didn’t we already discuss this here?…

No; that was Part I of Behe’s dissembling about Miller, this is Part III.

No need to beat a dead horse into a skeleton.

Concern troll.

But Miller clearly does have theological reasons for advocating mainstream evolution.

Not only isn’t that clear, but it’s false and slanderous. Miller’s reason for advocating mainstream evolution is because that’s where the evidence leads. Had the evidence led to Behe’s view, or to biblical literalism, there’s no reason to think that Miller would not have embraced that.

What Miller does have theological reasons for is arguing that mainstream evolution (or anything else indicated by the evidence) is not inconsistent with his theism – but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish.

Just more word-games from the creationists, with the clear intent of turning our very language into a fog of nonsense and lies…


Oh wait, I seem to have strayed into another area of fiction…

I think harold has the essential insight here. The religious mindset is to start with foregone conclusions trained into them beyond any possibility of examination. As a psychologist said of tax protesters (think: Hovind),

“For the most part, personality disorders do not respond to treatment and are believed to be characterological in nature. … [This] belief system is not under voluntary control. Individuals suffering from Delusional Disorder have little or no ability to alter their beliefs. … In short, this behavior is not rational. It is the product of a Delusional Personality Disorder that is not amenable to treatment and is unlikely to remit.”

And so it’s probably inevitable to regard everyone else as inhabiting this same world, seeing things the same way, sharing the same motivations. Every conviction is an indelible belief. Scientists therefore are attempting to support a (false) belief, and the whole of science is properly viewed as being constructed to justify the anti-God agenda. Truth makes sense ONLY in the context of *purpose*, and is incomprehensible in the context of evidence.

I’m reminded of a description I read of the Russian criminal justice system, where both accusations and sentences were based on the political utility of the exercise, without any particular regard to what the accused actually DID (or didn’t). Where evidence is needed for verisimilitude, it’s simply fabricated to meet the requirements of the “real” goal, as a sort of irrelevant formality.

And so protesting that scientists “go wherever the evidence leads” can only be interpreted as self-serving and disingenuous. The evidence is ALWAYS hostage to the required conclusions, and anyone pretending the reverse looks frustratingly dishonest. The Believer *knows better*. How could it be otherwise?


But Miller clearly does have theological reasons for advocating mainstream evolution.

Sure, they are not his primary reasons, but they are a factor.

Miller claims is that making ridiculous scientific claims to support a religious dogma is bad theology. The only reason Miller mentions evolution is 1) evolution is the most common theory about which nonsense gets spouted, and 2) he is a biologist.

Raging Bee:

Oh wait, I seem to have strayed into another area of fiction…

At least our language is growing instead of shrinking. ;-)

Am I supposed to be seeing “Bebe” where “Behe” is meant?

Sorry for making such a lame lurker comment, but it’s a bit bothersome…

Now, I will lurk moar.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on October 29, 2007 10:43 PM.

Intelligent Design Flunked: ID Mostly PR and little science was the previous entry in this blog.

Science v Intelligent Design: Miller explains Newton and ‘design’ is the next entry in this blog.

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