Intelligent Design

Michael Behe Goes Head-to-Head With Keith Fox

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A radio debate featuring Michael Behe and Keith Fox, discussing issues relating to the scientific substance, and theological implications, of ID was made available today on the Premier Christian Radio website. The audio can be found here.

The introductory comments on the website read as follows:

Michael Behe is professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania and the founder of the modern Intelligent Design movement.  His book “Darwin’s Black Box” ignited the controversy 14 years ago when it claimed that certain molecular machines and biological processes are “irreducibly complex” and cannot be explained by Darwinian evolution.

His new book “The Edge of Evolution” takes his conclusions further, arguing that the Darwinian processes of random mutation and natural selection are incapable of producing the variation and complexity we see in most of life.

So can we conclude that life was intelligently designed by a creator?

Keith Fox is Professor of biochemistry at the University of Southampton and chairman of Christians in Science.  As a theistic evolutionist he believes that Evolution is the best explanation going for the complexity we see and that ID is a blind scientific alley and theologically unappealing to boot.

They debate whether micromachines in the cell such as the “bacterial flagellum” could have evolved by a Darwinian process of evolution. When inference to design is and isn’t acceptable in science.  Whether random mutation can mathematically stack up to complex life, and whether God is reduced to a divine “tinkerer” by ID.

22 Replies to “Michael Behe Goes Head-to-Head With Keith Fox

  1. 1
    johnnyb says:

    I think it was very clear that Fox was the one promoting faith-based arguments, and Behe was promoting evidence-based arguments.

    Fox never cites an experiment in support of the creation of complex functions, Behe cites numerous experiments showing that complex functions are not being made.

    Fox is right that, someday, someone *might* come up with an experiment that has the right competitive factors that makes Darwinism work. And, certainly, no one should prevent anyone from doing such experiments.

    But the question is, what do the *current* experiments show? Why is it a thought crime for pointing out what the experiments show? Why is it a “science stopper” to notice a pattern in experiments?

  2. 2
    johnnyb says:

    By the way, the host of the radio show I thought was very excellent.

  3. 3
    tragic mishap says:

    Unbelievable is a great program. And Behe is not a great debater. The moderator had to guide Behe into the numbers talk, which he didn’t seem very comfortable with. When it comes to the question of ID as a positive hypothesis, Behe doesn’t have much to say. He should bluntly acknowledge that and point to, for instance, Meyer’s arguments.

  4. 4

    I was the host of the show. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    If you or anyone you know is in the UK, my programme is hosting Behe for “Darwin or Design? An evening with Michael Behe” on Mon 22 November at Westminster Chapel, London. Booking is at please spread the word!

  5. 5

    There’s a lot of animosity towards ID from Theistic Evolution here in the UK. Christian who feel it is handing the atheist agenda a golden opportunity attack faith. I’ve been criticised in some quarters for focussing so heavily on ID (even in a both-sides-heard format). Is it a diversion from the real work of the Gospel?

  6. 6
    bornagain77 says:

    justinbrierley I really enjoy your show and especially enjoy the even handed, and informative, way in which you present each weeks show. It is easy to tell that you do your homework each week in preparation.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    Here is the new paper that Dr. Behe referenced in the show:

    A golden age for evolutionary genetics? Genomic studies of adaptation in natural populations.
    Abstract: Studies of the genetic basis of adaptive changes in natural populations are now addressing questions that date back to the beginning of evolutionary biology, such as whether evolution proceeds in a gradual or discontinuous manner, and whether convergent evolution involves convergent genetic changes. Studies that combine quantitative genetics and population genomics provide a powerful tool for identifying genes controlling recent adaptive change. Accumulating evidence shows that single loci, and in some cases single mutations, often have major effects on phenotype. This implies that discontinuous evolution, with rapid changes in phenotype, could occur frequently in natural populations. Furthermore, convergent evolution commonly involves the same genes. This implies a surprising predictability underlying the genetic basis of evolutionary changes. Nonetheless, most studies of recent evolution involve the loss of traits, and we still understand little of the genetic changes needed in the origin of novel traits.

  8. 8
    Collin says:

    Mr. Brierley,

    Maybe it is a distraction. But if it is true, then we’ve got to pursue it. Does life have objective evidence of design? Many want to rule that out a priori.

  9. 9
    CannuckianYankee says:

    Mr. Brierley,

    Thanks for paying us a visit. I have had the pleasure of listening to your show on a number of occasions when you present issues of science and religion, and I must say, it’s perhaps the most professional radio show I’ve heard in this respect. Shows like yours are nearly non-existent here in the US. Unfortunately Americans seem to be more into shock radio rather than anything truly informative. It is not a diversion, BTW. It’s needed. Keep up the good work.

  10. 10
    CannuckianYankee says:

    “Fox is right that, someday, someone *might* come up with an experiment that has the right competitive factors that makes Darwinism work. And, certainly, no one should prevent anyone from doing such experiments.”

    I agree, Fox is right in that pursuit. The issue we get into then is how Darwinists interpret such evidence, if it shows that Darwinian processes can work. Will they interpret it as proof that designoid features CAN be produced through purely chance/necessity processes? Or will they consider this question as provisional? We have to be prepared for such a scenario even if we don’t believe it will work. In fact, we should continue to encourage it.

  11. 11
    Timaeus says:

    Justin Brierley (5):

    “There’s a lot of animosity towards ID from Theistic Evolution here in the UK. Christian[s] who feel it is handing the atheist agenda a golden opportunity attack faith.”

    Don’t buy it. The atheists will attack faith anyway, as is shown by the contemptuous remarks and outright attacks upon theistic evolutionists by Dawkins and Coyne. In any case, ID would only be dangerous to faith if Christians presented the whole case for the existence of God as if it depended on proofs of design. But there is no living Christian ID proponent who does that. All of them would believe in God, (i) on the strength of revelation, and (ii) on the basis of moral phenomena such as consciousness of right and wrong and/or on the basis of metaphysical proofs such as those offered by Thomas Aquinas, even if every ID argument proved untenable. In other words, if ID fails, ID Christians still have every single resource for faith available to the theistic evolutionist. So Christianity is no worse off if ID fails, and better off, apologetically speaking, if it succeeds.

    The reason the TEs don’t like ID is (1) professional commitment to Darwinian evolution; (2) theological commitment to a fideistic approach to Christianity. On point (2), note that almost no TEs are Catholics. They’re almost all Protestants, and in Protestantism fideism is not uncommon, due to the unfortunate influence of Barth on modern Protestant theology. (And oddly enough, contra Barth, his master Calvin accepted design arguments.)

    By the way, I heard your show and I thought it was well-done. Excellent moderation.


  12. 12
    johnnyb says:

    Justin –

    I don’t believe it is a diversion. I think it can be justified on the same basis as any other academic investigation. We humans are built to understand this wonderful creation, and learning about it is a wonderful thing.

  13. 13
    NZer says:

    Hey Justin, love your radio show. Keep the ID stuff flowing!!!

  14. 14

    Quite an interesting conversation about the show going on at the show discussion page between pro and anti ID ers http://www.premiercommunity.or.....ox-program

  15. 15
    nullasalus says:


    Just wanted to compliment you – interesting show, and the name of it keeps coming up when I browse around websites.

    I agree with Timaeus in large part, for what its worth – it’s not like atheists need an ‘opportunity’ to attack. Regarding ID, usually what is is attacked are cooked up versions of ID (“ID is really YEC!”, etc.) I’d also agree that ID is not necessary for Christianity, or even for design arguments.

    My wish is that the TEs would start making design arguments with the assumption of evolution (Not ‘Darwinian’ evolution, since I take it as an intrinsic claim of Darwinism that evolution is truly unguided or undirected, etc – something, by the way, I don’t think can be demonstrated scientifically even in principle). I’ve seen some vague rumbling at Biologos that they’re considering such a view, and I know of several ID-friendly authors who do as well.

    But really, TEs would go a long way towards defusing the whole TE v ID situation, I think, if more of them firmly committed to evolution being ultimately guided, and even made (even if qualified as ‘non-scientific’) design arguments based on that commitment. In a lot of ways they only have themselves to blame, because they seem vastly more concerned with appeasing out and out atheists, and trying to buy that appeasement with attacks on other Christians (previously YECs, now ID proponents) than with much else.

    (For the record, I’m a Catholic as well as a TE of sorts myself. Though my position is that design in nature is obvious, that evolutionary biology utterly fails to explain it away, and in fact can in many ways only add to the design case. So I don’t speak of TE criticism merely because of their friendliness towards some form of evolution.)

  16. 16
    nullasalus says:

    Incidentally, while listening to this interview something odd strikes me.

    Fox asks Behe, ‘What if I gave you a step by step atomistic pathway showing how the bacterial flagellum came about by darwinian means?’ Behe’s response is, oh, if you show all this, then sure. My position is falsified, ID is incorrect.

    Behe asks Fox, ‘Now, what if we knocked out portions of the bacterial flagellum and tested the process under selection pressures in the laboratory – and it failed to do much of anything? Would this falsify Darwinism?’

    Fox shoots back that no, no, not applicable. Darwinian evolution took place over millions of years and also we don’t know what those selection pressures were and we never will. However, everything we know is consistent with evolutionary theory.

    Now, I have little problem with evolution (It’s the metaphysical ‘unguided’ and ‘without purpose’ claims that get to me.) But man, that is weak. ‘Consistency’, especially the sort of consistency Fox is talking about, is a tremendously low hurdle to jump.

  17. 17
    vjtorley says:

    Justin Brierley,

    I just wanted to congratulate you on the excellent job you did, in hosting the debate between Professors Behe and Fox. You kept the discussion focused and on track, and ensured that the key issues – scientific as well as theological – were all adequately aired. Thank you.

  18. 18
    traderdrew says:

    “Fox shoots back that no, no, not applicable. Darwinian evolution took place over millions of years and also we don’t know what those selection pressures were and we never will. However, everything we know is consistent with evolutionary theory.”

    Good point! It seems to me this shows that ID is more falsifiable than Darwinism.

  19. 19
    StephenB says:

    —justin brierley: “Is it [ID] a diversion from the real work of the Gospel?}

    According to both the Old and New Testaments, [Psalm 19, Romans 1:20] evidence for the design of the universe is the rational foundation for belief in Christianity. It assures believers that their faith in a transcendent, immanent, and incarnate God is grounded in reason.

    Unlike other religious world views, which simply ask for an irrational leap of faith, Christianity says “look at the evidence” before you make any leap at all. As in, [Romans 1:20] “The things that are not seen are made evident by the things that are seen.” Those who do not at least believe in the existence of a self-evident, transcendent God are “without excuse.” ID proponents would agree and argue that, just as the Scriptures tell us, patterns in nature are available to reason through the senses.

    Theistic evolutionists, on the other hand, say that biological design is not self evident at all. Because it is, for them, merely “inherent in the evolutionary process,” God’s handiwork cannot really be discerned by looking at design patterns. Keep in mind that the TEs are working within the very same Darwinistic framework that characterizes biological design as an “illusion.”

    TE Christians, with their schizophrenic world view, hold that God reveals himself in the cosmological realm and turns right around and hides himself in the biological realm. ID Christians, appealing to both reason and the fact in evidence, hold that God reveals himself in both realms.

    Which position sounds more like Christianity to you?

  20. 20
    Upright BiPed says:

    justin brierley,

    This is the second or third program of yours I’ve listened to.

    Please, keep it up!

  21. 21

    Thanks for the kind comments on the show. I find the whole area fascinating. We are trying to get word out as much as possible re Behe’s tour here in the UK. If you know networks or individuals in the uk who would be interested please let them know about the evening I am hosting Behe in London on Nov 22

  22. 22
    CannuckianYankee says:


    These are the two most popular internet sites on ID in the UK. You might want to contact them with your information.

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