Dr Behe: Scenario of "God's Pool Shot"

I didn’t get it at first, but it is clever. The claimed miracle is irrelevant to any science, so there is no point in disputing it.


Remember, though, Joshua, that the pool shot analogy, which does what you say, is offered by Behe in this interview (and elsewhere) only as a possibility. In fact, he has been accused of holding the opposite of a pool-shot view. Jerry Coyne, in one of his reviews of Behe’s books, said that Behe regarded God as “the Great Mutator”, tinkering supernaturally to produce mutations that natural selection would choose, in line with his planned outcomes for evolution. Coyne there interpreted Behe as an “interventionist”, not as a “front-loader”; and of course the “interventionist” charge against Behe has been widespread; it’s the view of Behe held by Dennis Venema, Francis Collins, Karl Giberson, and just about everyone at BioLogos and in the ASA. These folks see Behe as consciously affirming, or at least see his view as logically requiring (whether he admits it or not) miraculous interventions into the evolutionary process, at least at a few points, and for that reason label it as an “unscientific” view, since science, in their view, cannot deal with miraculous interventions. Normally those of us who are ID-sympathetic are fighting off the charge that Behe is an unscientific, miracle-mongering interventionist, not the charge that Behe is a Deist who leaves God with nothing to do but set off the Big Bang!

I’m not sure about this. As far as I understand, he is an orthodox Catholic, and therefore ought to accept an original couple as the sole ancestors of all true human beings. That is, he should hold to a position like that of Ann Gauger, who is also Catholic. But perhaps there is some tension between Catholic teaching and what he holds about the origin of man via common descent. Is that what you are getting at?

On this point, it might be interesting to hear Ann’s reading of Behe’s relationship to Catholic thought on an original couple. Of course, in the end, we would have to ask Behe himself, to be sure, but if Ann has had conversations about the subject with him, she might be able to shed some light on his view.

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Dan, I understand your confusion regarding George’s position. George and I have been over this scores of times on BioLogos. George uses the phrase “God-guided evolution” in an idiosyncratic manner, a manner different from that of others who have used the term in the past (e.g., Asa Gray, Robert Russell). He uses it in a very vague way to cover an amorphous notion of God “somehow being involved” in evolution. (In that respect he reminds me of Jeff Schloss, who is famous for saying that God is “mightily hands-on” in evolution, but has refused, in all the ten years or more since he uttered the phrase, to give any meaningful content to what “hands-on” means, by telling us how we could distinguish a God who is “hands-on” in evolution from a God who is “hands-off.”)

Certainly, when the average Christian in the pews hears the phrase “God-guided”, he or she is thinking of “interventionist” behavior on the part of God. He or she is imagining God as participating in the direction of evolution as one of the efficient causes of the process. To speak of evolution as “God-guided” when one means only that God set up a perfect pool shot, struck the ball, and then let natural laws do all the rest by pure mechanism, would strike average churchgoers as a misuse of the word “guided.” They could grant that evolution in such a scenario would have designed results, but they would not normally choose the phrase “God-guided” to characterize how the design was implemented. They would see the pool-shot scenario as “Deistic” rather than “Theistic”.

In short, I agree with you that the pool-shot scenario does not sound like “God-guided” evolution as most people would normally use that phrase. That is why I have urged George, for years now, to be much more precise about what he means by “guided”. How does God “guide”? What does God do in order to guide evolution to his chosen outcomes? George has never been clear or precise about this.

Robert Russell, on the other hand, offers a scenario: God subtly guides evolution through mutations, influencing mutations by manipulating matter at the quantum level. Since our methods of observation would not be able to tell (in any individual case) whether a mutation was caused by a random quantum fluctuation, or came from the hand of God, science would have to go on treating all mutations as “random” – yet God would be directly involved, literally steering or guiding the process. If George meant something like that by “guided evolution”, his view would make more sense. But he has never been that clear.

Further, such a view is not the view of Michael Denton or other “front-loaders” – nor is it the view expressed by Behe (only as a possibility) in the pool shot analogy. So George’s position remains muddy and unclear. It might be the right position, but it’s impossible to tell, due to lack of lucid exposition. So I salute you for clear-mindedness in pointing out this problem in George’s statements.

He will never affirm it publicly. Would you like to bet?

I’m not making a statement about his personal views, but about his strategy. On this, I’m entirely correct. His strategy is to collapse it down into fine tuning, whether or not that is his personal view or not.

Somewhat comical isn’t it @Eddie? Why does @gbrooks9 needs to be more clear or precise than Behe?

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Charges like those described by Coyne seem simultaneously foolish and yet so obvious it isnt worth criticizing.

If God can choose between miraculous special creation vs. Non-miraculous natural law… i think it is a little silly to consider one an intervention of his creation and the other the fruition of his creation: they should both be considered one if two ways for God to engage in the Universe.

As long as free will is being accommodated, there is really nothing to complain about!

There us nothing obscure about God’s involvement in my view of Evolution. He is in charge of mutation formation and the ecological factors that render the mutations valuable or deleterious.

If you can suggest a better phrase than “God-Guided Evolution” that means what i intend, i will be happy to use it.


Im surprised that you dont object to this crass terminology of a God who is “interventionist”.

It is sort of like describing a man who raises cattle as a Cow Pimp.

All right, that is a reasonable distinction.

I don’t know whether he has affirmed it publicly or not. I have never seen him either affirm or deny it. As for what he will affirm or deny in the future, no, I wouldn’t care to bet. He is a free agent, and who knows what a free agent might do?

To confirm that, you would need more statements than the ambiguous one in the interview we have been discussing. I have yet to see a statement where he insists that the only way to get design into the evolutionary process is via fine-tuning the universe at the time of the Big Bang. Certainly the perception of the majority of his critics, including the majority of Christian biologists who have attacked him, is the opposite – that he pushes miracles into the process, not that he is a Deistic front-loader. That’s what all the BioLogos scientists believe about him; at least, I have never seen a statement by any of them that interprets him as a front-loader.

Those of us who have been in these debates for a long time will remember the common charge that Behe believes that God “poofed” new forms into existence. It was such a common charge that beaglelady on BioLogos could sarcastically write “poof” without explanation in her one-line put-downs, knowing that her audience would interpret Behe in that way. So your view of Behe, even if the correct one, is not the majority view. Most of his readers see him as advocating miraculous interventions. So if it is his strategy to sell ID by equating it with front-loading, he is doing a very poor job of communicating his strategy. His readers mostly think he believes that God sticks in miracles every so often.


I call BS on your accusation. I was easily the most explicit and specific about God’s role in evolution than anyone else on BioLogos… and that includes more specific than you.


If you had written this in my presence at BioLogos, I would have been able to say YES immediately as I do now.

And what shall we call this scenario? Im eager to read your opinion on that!

That is just ignorant.

Behe is pretty clear that he thinks biologists will never accept a intervention from God, and this is why he focused on the pool shot. This is not a secret.


@Eddie You are taking me WAY too seriously. I was trying to make a joke. :wink:

I have no strong opinion on George’s opinion here, or yours. and see no real need for one. If George were to formalize his claims of periodic intervention from God we could have a merry old time arguing over it, but there is no need for that when we are basically on the same page about the interpretation of science. IOW, you and George are allies of science in every way that matters to me. Why spoil a good thing?


If i had read about the pool shot scenario 2 years ago, we would have had tbis conversation 2 years ago.

You certainly never offered it.


Ehat goes here?

There is a difference between those who think God specially created new species periodically (im not one who thinks this)…

And those who thinks god ENGAGES the Universe in two equally “interventionist” ways:

By natural means…and by miraculous means. These two methods, plus human free will represents 100% of all cosmic activity.

I’m confused, and hungry. UNCLE!

One needs to be as clear and precise as one’s assertions require. If George says that God “guides” evolution, he needs to specify what he means by “guides.” Behe has never said that God “guides” evolution, so he is not required to define that term.

The difference is that Behe is interested only in establishing the fact of design in creation, not in offering a temporal history of creation. Someone who says that God “guides” evolution is offering a temporal history of creation. Someone who says that God “guides” evolution is suggesting (if he is using the word “guides” in a normal English sense, and not in some tricky special sense) that God at points in the past interacted with other efficient causes and is a factor in evolutionary outcomes, the way an additional mutation or a change in climate would be a factor in evolutionary outcomes.

Again I come back to examples such as Stonehenge, the Pyramids, watches, etc. Behe believes you don’t need to give a historical account of how those things came to be in order to know that they are designed and not the products of chance and blind natural laws. So he is open to more than one historical account of how things came to be. Maybe there are twenty different ways that Stonehenge could have been constructed. Behe can remain open to all of them, and leave the archaeologists to sort it out, content that he knows that Stonehenge is the product of design, not chance. Similarly, Behe can be open to “guided” scenarios for evolution, in which God actually intervenes, or “front-loaded” scenarios in which God doesn’t intervene, without dogmatically insisting on one or the other – since from his point of view he doesn’t need to know which historical scenario was the actual one, in order to establish the fact of design. For this reason, it’s not in his interest to push either front-loaded or interventionist scenarios; wedding ID to one scenario or the other yields no possible gain for ID.

There is a difference between not committing yourself to one view or another when your theory doesn’t require such a commitment, and not committing yourself to a one view or another when you theory does require such a commitment. George’s theory is that “God guided evolution.” It’s therefore reasonable to ask him what he means by “guidance” when he asserts this. I’m not rejecting George’s assertion; I may even agree with it! But before I can agree or disagree with it, I have to know what he means by the terms he is using.

And I’d say the same to Jeff Schloss, who has hidden for years behind the phrase “mightily hands-on” without giving it any contents. I suspect that Schloss’s motivation for using that phrase is tactical; he knows that the evangelicals in the churches will read “mightily hands-on” as portraying an interventionist God, dipping his fingers into nature to shape evolution; but I also strongly suspect that Schloss does not conceive of God’s relation to evolution in that way at all. That is, I suspect that Schloss is being disingenuous before his evangelical audience, in order to “sell” them on evolution. I could be wrong, but if I’m wrong, why hasn’t he clarified the meaning of his phrase? I think it’s because it’s to the advantage of his agenda not to clarify the phrase, but to let Christians in the pews read into it as much or as little “intervention” as they like, and thus to win the widest consent for evolution among evangelicals, while skirting important theoretical questions.

In George’s case, I don’t think that anything so devious is involved; I think he just is not formulating his ideas very clearly. I’d be happy if he could state – with or without using the word “guided” – exactly what he thinks God does in evolution. Does God merely set up a perfect pool shot at the time of the Big Bang, strike the cue ball, and head off to the bar for a drink while the balls are bouncing off each other and into the pockets? Or set up such a pool shot, plus “sustain the natural laws” during the process? Intervene at certain points, e.g., by directing an asteroid to hit the earth and end the age of dinosaurs, or “tweaking” a few nucleotides to produce man? I honestly don’t know how George conceives of God’s “guidance.” I think his contributions here would be more helpful if he spent more time expressing his own views clearly, and less time trying to divine the views of Behe based on one ambiguous statement in an interview. I don’t need George’s help to understand Behe, or Denton, etc. I need George’s help only to understand George. If he could clarify what he means by saying that God “guides” evolution, I would be very grateful.

I’m just please you are happy with my position.


And I am sure that when you stop writing tomes to yourself you will find my answers already posted.

If Behe cared in the slightest about what biologists think, he never would have written Darwin’s Black Box, or any of his subsequent writings. And as Ann Gauger has just told you, surrendering anything to mainstream biology, even UCD, has never done Behe any good. So your idea that Behe is trembling before mainstream biology, desperately seeking the approval of its practitioners by offering a front-loaded scenario, does not hold water.

You also have an empirical problem in that Behe has not very often talked about front-loading, and in all cases where he has, has never insisted on it as more than a possibility.

In any case, suppose that Behe firmly believed in front-loading, and said so. That would do him no good, Most biologists on these debate sites have argued that quantum indeterminacy proves that such a perfect pool shot would not be possible; only in a Laplacean universe could it work. So they would say that evolution couldn’t have proceeded to determinate outcomes by such means. The fact that not a single biologist debating on these website has embraced Denton’s front-loading ideas tells us exactly how they would react if Behe embraced front-loading.

So even if Behe had the strategy you impute to him, it would be a dumb strategy. It would show a lack of perception by Behe about the views of the audience the strategy was meant to persuade.