Q&A with Michael Behe: What’s Wrong with Theistic Evolution?

The best part about this Q&A, is that it is the last one in the series.

I watched two of the Q&A videos. I watched the one on Common Descent, and I watched this one (on Theistic evolution).

I was underwhelmed. What Behe said seemed very familiar. He seems to have the misunderstandings that we regularly see presented by @colewd .

His understanding is from the perspective of a biochemist. His argument is solid as far as I am concerned. You use the words “underwhelming” and “misunderstanding” that are only supported by assertion.

What I think is underwhelming is the claim that Darwinian mechanisms can explain life’s diversity. At this point it appears that you cannot algorithmically create information (a functional sequence) without the information as a target in the algorithm. Until you can do this the reality of the cell (DNA and Protein arrangements) is making the design argument a real option.

Um, QED?


In more detail, my criticism is of what you and Behe say about “random”.

I go into a dark cave. I turn on a flashlight so that I can look around to see if there is anything interesting. But a flashlight is just randomly spraying photons. According to Behe’s apparent way of thinking, a random spray of photons shouldn’t achieve anything because it is just random.

That’s obviously wrong. It isn’t the randomness by itself. What matters is how the randomness is used.


This is obviously wrong, and you know that it’s obviously wrong, since we’ve been through things like the generation of antibodies through random processes many times.


This is not at all how Behe thinks.

You are not using a random processes or one without the preexistence of information. The information from the invading microbe is part of the algorithm.

Hmmm… Has anyone ever seen @colewd and Behe together in the same room at the same time?


How do you know how Behe thinks?

1 Like

What algorithm is that Bill? How does “preexisting information” make the random part be non-random?


Yes, and? Nobody is saying otherwise. Evolution is the process by which antibodies are adapted to novel invading pathogens. Nobody is saying the immune system can consistently evolve antibodies against pathogens it has never experienced.

Evolution occurs by having heritable phenotypes tested against the environment. If there is no environmental feedback, or no heritability, there is no evolution. If there IS environmental feedback and heritability, evolution occurs and given the requisite circumstances will change antibodies to function against novel antigens, new proteins, change and adapt species to changing conditions etc. etc.


I don’t know about your body, but mine sure as heck uses random processes to develop antibodies. It also uses a process of selection – you know, like evolution.

First, that’s simply wrong, a misunderstanding of what algorithm is – an algorithm is a set of steps to be followed. Information from invading microbes cannot be part of the algorithm. Rather, that the invading microbe provides the information that the algorithm uses to create functional sequences. Second, as @Rumraket points out, the situation with evolution is exactly the same: random variation followed by selection turns information from the environment into functional sequences.


Depends how you see it right? The invading microbes are the environmental cue that does provide information by way of selection to the immune system. How this fact undermines evolution is beyond me. This seems to demonstrate that the environment can guide evolution.

1 Like

Sure, the microbes provide information, but that doesn’t make them part of the algorithm. They’re the input to the algorithm.

1 Like

So they are part of the algorithm, as input into the algorithm?


In the same sense that a loaf of bread is part of your digestive system.


Sure, in that same way. Its just a matter of convention where we draw the line.

Well, okay, it’s a matter of convention, but the convention is clear. Loaves of bread are not part of the digestion system – they are not included in the meaning that speakers of English assign to the phrase “digestion system”. Input data are not part the meaning that we have assigned to the word “algorithm”. Sure, that assignment is arbitrary – “algorithm” could instead mean a form of transportation or a communicable disease, or the data that we feed into algorithms. But it doesn’t mean any of those things.


The point is that random mutation and natural selection are effective ways of transferring information to the genome from the environment, whether or not we consider environment part of the “algorithm.”