Follow the Bi... er, the evidence wherever it leads

I just can’t imagine how stressful it is to be an ID advocate. You’ve got all this maze of sound-bites and talking points to navigate, all vetted by professional Public Relations operatives and carefully studied to send the appropriate message, and then you get distracted one moment, open you mouth and - BAM - you mess it all up. Here’s one more example. Do you remember ever hearing ID advocates proclaim that “we should follow the evidence wherever it leads”? If not, you haven’t been paying attention (don’t worry, you can still catch up here or here, for instance). If you believed the ID advocates’ spin, however, you probably should have read the small print, because apparently there’s at least one exception: you are allowed not to follow the evidence after all, if doing so will take you to conclusions that may challenge your religious beliefs. In fact, it’s actually better not to even try to follow it there, just in case.

At least, this is what Michael Behe seems to suggest in the Christian magazine First Things in response to a letter by a born-again geologist who says he/she adopted a young-earth Creationist position following his/her religious conversion. Behe says:

I appreciate Jackie Lee’s and Carmen Catanese’s letters, which together help to illustrate the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature. The danger to Christians from osmosing alien, materialistic presumptions, I think, far outweighs the danger of being wrong about any particular scientific point. (Emphasis mine.)

Behe himself claims to agree with the scientific consensus that the Earth is billions of years old, so presumably he must feel there is nothing exceedingly “osmotically” dangerous in sharing the scientific conclusion about the Earth’s age based on all the available empirical evidence. Still, he declares it is preferable to deceive oneself into believing in a 6,000 years-old Earth if one thinks that following the evidence will result in exposure to “materialistic presumptions”. Astonishing, if you ask me, coming from a scientist. Does Behe apply the same defensive approach when reaching his own conclusions about evolution? One certainly has to wonder, because in the original article that inspired Jackie Lee’s letter, Behe clearly indicates that acceptance of evolutionary theory carries the risk of exposing oneself to materialism.

Sadly, Behe calls this fearful denial of reason and empirical data “the breadth of freedom available to a Christian interpreting the physical evidence of nature”. Orwell would be proud.