Faith/Science Conference (Discovery Institute) near Philly

Some members of my church are going to a faith and science conference sponsored by the Discovery Institute and Westminster Theological Seminary. I actually went to the event last year and was blindsided by how much they attacked theistic evolution (I wasn’t really familiar with ID last year). I’m going again this year even though it will probably be a waste of brain cells, but I’m hopeful to have an informative and peaceful discussion.


The speakers include several people from the Discovery Institute including Michael Behe. There is time dedicated for Q&A.

Any thoughts on what I should try to ask?


Good question.

Perhaps ask them about Peaceful Science and why they did not include alternate views? See also my review of their book:

Remember also Behe is TE. It might be worth asking “what type of TE would be acceptable to you?"


Isn’t Behe T without the E?

1 Like

They are only taking questions submitted by text or note card. There are no microphones for live questions. This allows them to address more questions and topics by seeing all questions at once, but I can’t stand up there and expose Behe’s errors with pointed questions or debate… I guess I will play nice and try to slip a question in there.

1 Like

Vern Poythress just said it is “okay” to do lab bench science (repeatable experiments) from a methodological naturalism perspective but that historical science or origins research you need to consider God. Not his exact words but close enough.


Behe’s introduction emphasized all the vitriol against Behe and how he is fighting the good fight. Coyne was mentioned by name. I think this is why its important to be peaceful in criticisms.


But not @NLENTS ? Common, I demand equal treatment of all of Behe’s detractors especially Nathan. :sunglasses: Nathan deserves as much of Behe’s vitriol as Jerry Coyne does.

1 Like


Common descent is interesting but trivial because it doesn’t say how they transitioned.

Natural selection: interesting but also trivial, doesn’t say where these things came from.

Big issue is the question of whether random mutation is sufficient to account for changes.


I guess I’m live blogging, but this is too fun. He is still talking about the mouse trap.


Behe is talking about Chloroquine and drug resistance now.


Oh boy. Are we taking bets on whether he mentions me/us?

1 Like

They asked my question, maybe I wasted it, but I sought to understand why he is still holding on to this.

Q. Critics say that polar bear APOB is not degraded but improved. What is their evidence? You say it is damaged yet still helpful - how is APOB helpful when degraded (mechanism?) and what is your evidence?

A. He mentioned that polar bears eat high fat diets and seem fine as evidence it might be okay, but he brought up the mouse study where the one copy deletion was beneficial for cholesterol levels but he left the part out about being sterile. He says he was just following the lead of the authors of the paper in saying it was degraded.

1 Like

It’s not supposed to

1 Like

This is what started it all. The authors explicitly mentioned the possibility/likelihood that the polar bear APOB is in fact not degraded, but has changed to be better suited for a high fat diet.


Give our regards to @Agauger and @bjmiller.

1 Like

I find the stubbornness on this easily falsifiable claim fairly stunning.

1 Like

Wow, an interesting conference; here’s a summary of my thoughts.

  1. I found several things that I could agree with from a theological/philosophical point such that I now understand why @swamidass would write that he agrees with Behe. Before, I thought Josh was just being nice, but now I see it is more than just being nice.

In particular, I think that when Christians look at complex biological systems, they should see design. Not design in the form of God “poofing” this system into being, but design in the same way that the physical constants of our universe allow stars, planets, and the right elements for life to be abundant. God in his foreknowledge and divine plan predestined that these natural laws would give rise to life as we know it today (e.g. 1 Kings 22:36) . This is a theological/philosophical perspective, not a scientific one, and I now see how this concept borders on the question of how do humans have free will (vs. God controlling our actions).

  1. These ID speakers (e.g. Behe and others) are very well meaning and are trying to be intellectually honest so they should be treated with respect as much as possible

At a few points during the conference, there were jokes made about how much people on the internet reviled intelligent design and they wore it as a badge of honor. This builds the us vs. them mentality that makes intelligent more insular and closed off.

Also, they took everyone of my submitted questions and didn’t filter anything. John West the moderator even followed up when the answer didn’t seem to directly answer questions that challenged them to get to a more complete response. I felt respected because they asked my tough questions (although I might have been unsatisfied by the answers) and it led to greater understanding.

  1. I don’t think these ID conferences are necessarily winning over people who are unsure of their beliefs because there wasn’t much of a clear positive case for what it means that something is “designed.”

Most of the conference was spent poking holes in evolution and responding to critics. There wasn’t much of a positive argument for design or what exactly that means. The speaker shows a picture of a complex molecular machine and shows how the parts work together and then says,“Obviously this was designed.” But how was that design built? Did the designer poof it into existence? Was part of it “poofed” and then part of it evolved? Did the designer pick mutations one at a time in a way that would be indistinguishable from evolution and natural selection? None of these things was addressed directly and I think one was left to infer what God had to do.

I spoke with a few other people who came because they were curious but were not “in the choir” already. While they would agree with the idea molecular machines look designed, they weren’t impressed by the arguments being put forward or thought that degraded was merely semantics. The neutral audience is receptive to the (obvious?) weaknesses in intelligent, but I think there is something about complex molecular machines that inspires awe in people much like a majestic mountain range or beautiful sunset and intelligent design captures some of that because it is more than science, it is philosophy.

  1. Intelligent design is philosophy and theology, not science. They also tend to misrepresent or don’t understand the point of evolution experiments.

This conference was about “faith and science” so there were obvious theological overtones and discussions that wouldn’t happen at a more secular ID conference. However, I heard several things that I agreed with at a certain level (theological) but disagreed with what they were saying at a scientific level. I also found it funny how Behe talked about Lenski’s evolution experiment and included a brief discussion of the citrate mutant. He didn’t fully explain why the cit mutant was important, but since he didn’t explain its significance, it didn’t make sense why he even brought it up in his presentation unless you already knew about it. The way it was presented, the citrate mutant didn’t seem like something that supported evolution in the first place so it didn’t need to be refuted.

These are just my initial thoughts that I thought I would spit out before I forget about it. Some of these thoughts may need to be refined.


Me and the man himself!


Bog standard ID in other words. “This looks Designed to me so it must BE Designed. Don’t ask about any specifics”. Or as Dembski so aptly put it: "ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.”

The negative argument from ignorance based personal incredulity is all ID has ever offered. Ever.

1 Like

I think this is pretty critical. For Christian scientists, who already acknowledge God’s existence and (I would imagine most would affirm) omnipotence, design itself is trivial. It seems like ID arguments always want something much more specific, but end up with a big “well, just look at it!” we it comes to main points of evidence. Similarly, going from watches or car motors or mouse traps and making the leap to “anything that looks designed came from an intelligence”.

Well, as Christians there’s no argument that everything we see, or touch, or hear, every idea, every beautiful moment, every amazing memory, all of it, came from an intelligence. I just don’t get why it seems more important to ID to bend science into accepting a “design inference” than it is to just say “we know who did it all! His name is Jesus!” and get on with trying to figure out how He might have done it.