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A chat with Michael Behe

BACKSTORY | On de-volution, couch potatoes, and God’s marvelous molecular machinery

Michael Behe Illustration by Zé Otavio

A chat with Michael Behe
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In our cover story, Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe takes us inside a semi-­secret conference that questioned secular science’s holy grail—the theory of evolution. I asked Behe what’s happened since 1996, when he sparked controversy in secular circles with his book Darwin’s Black Box, a scientific takedown of Darwin’s theory:

Since Black Box, we’ve seen intelligent design advocates systematically silenced. Any good news on that front? We can divide the news since then into disappointing and terrific. The disappointing news is, the scientific community remains implacably opposed to intelligent design. The terrific news is that, as the actual science advances ever more rapidly, the case for intelligent design gets ever stronger while the case for Darwin gets much weaker (if that’s even possible). That’s exactly what you expect to see when your theory is correct—new results confirm it.

In Black Box, you coined the term “irreducible complexity” to describe biological systems that could not function without a minimum number of components, and that therefore could not have “evolved” from simpler systems. What is the most common evolutionist response to your proposition? The most common overall response is to question my ancestry. The most common serious response is to deflect the question to the future: Give us more time, they write. But, of course, it has now been more than 25 years, and a grand total of zero of the examples in the book has been explained in a Darwinian fashion.

What new areas of scientific inquiry show the most ­promise for advancing the theory of intelligent design? In biology, pretty much all of them. The cell has much more elegant machinery than was thought just a decade ago. It has more sophisticated control ­systems, does more things that no one ever suspected. Another such study was just published. Researchers were able to make movies of a molecular machine that handles tangles that arise in DNA during cell replication. Meanwhile, pretty much every new study trumpeting how ­natural selection helped a species survive finds that the underlying mutation broke a preexisting gene. That’s de-volution, not e-volution.

Tell us about your faith and family. My grandfathers both worked for the Altoona railroad. My dad joined the Navy right out of high school during the Second World War. He was the first of his family to go to college, on the GI Bill. I was born in 1952 into a large Catholic family and attended parochial school. I always feel at a loss when I’m asked by other Christians to share my ­conversion story since I don’t have one! I was blessed to be taught the faith by my parents and never doubted its truth. My wife and I decided to carry on the tradition with a large Catholic family of our own. Like all families, we’ve had our ups and downs, but God has richly blessed us.

What kinds of hobbies or sports might we find you enjoying on a weekend? I’m a proverbial couch potato. I love to watch football and cheer for the Philadelphia Eagles. A lot of my wife’s and my time is spent in family get-togethers with one or more of our nine kids, who all still live in the area.

If you could take a year off to study one subject outside your career field, what would it be? I’ve always wanted to learn carpentry, to work with my hands in making something. I am one of the least handy guys you’ll ever come across. If I had a free year, I think I’d apprentice myself to a particularly patient carpenter.

Lynn Vincent

Lynn is executive editor of WORLD Magazine and producer/host of the true crime podcast Lawless. She is the New York Times best-selling author or co-author of a dozen nonfiction books, including Same Kind of Different As Me and Indianapolis. Lynn lives in the mountains east of San Diego, Calif.


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