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

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’.