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Michael Behe Debates Evolution and Catholicism

Photo: Vatican, by Luc Mercelis, via Flickr (cropped).

A new episode of ID the Future brings the first part of a friendly debate/discussion between Lehigh University biologist and intelligent design proponent Michael Behe and Catholic theologian Matthew Ramage. The discussion is led by Philosophy for the People podcast host Pat Flynn. Behe notes that he is a lifelong Catholic who accepted from childhood that, as he was taught in school, if God wanted to work through the secondary causes of Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms to generate the diversity of life, who were we to tell him he shouldn’t or couldn’t do it that way? Behe says that his skepticism toward neo-Darwinism arose many years later and stemmed purely from his scientific research.

Ramage, who specializes in the thought of Pope Benedict XVI, sees God as indispensable to creation but also embraces universal common descent and emphasizes God’s ability to work through secondary causation. Ramage asks Behe if he agrees with common descent. Behe explains why he finds the issue trivial and says the crucial issue is what Behe argued for in Darwin’s Black Box, namely that mindless Darwinian mechanisms lack the creative power to have generated life’s diversity, and that we have compelling positive reasons to conclude that the purposeful arrangement of parts, such as we find in mousetraps and molecular biological machines, is the work of intelligent design. Ramage urges Behe to spend more of his rhetorical energy distinguishing himself from creationists who reject evolution in toto. Behe again pushes back, saying he doesn’t care “two hoots” for the issue of common descent, and that the important thing to focus on is how the science has turned against modern Darwinism and its emphasis on random changes and natural selection.

Behe acknowledges that Darwinian evolution nicely explains things like the emergence of wooly mammoths from elephants, or polar bears from grizzly bears, but he says these are examples of life filling various evolutionary niches via devolution. It doesn’t get you the evolution of all living things through mindless evolutionary mechanisms. There are many other elements and nuances in this lively conversation between a Catholic scientist and a Catholic theologian. Download the podcast or listen to it here.