10 thoughts on “Stephen Colbert supports Behe’s limitations on Darwinism”

  1. I wouldn’t take Behe as an indication of the direction that scientists are taking. He represents a 1/10,000 scientist who hasn’t had much success in the academic world, but has made a little bit of money selling books to churches. Every time his arguments are shown to be incorrect, he continues to trot them out (take his mousetrap analogy in the video above, that was demolished 10 years ago, but he keeps trotting it out hoping no one will notice).

    If you want to see what religious scientists think, check out Francis Collins. He would be more indicative of what your average God-fearing scientist believes.

  2. Thanks for the recommendation. I actually do not view Behe as a God-fearing scientist. I’ve alway been under the impression that he just believes there is an higher intelligence that had to be responsible for the universe. Has he actually become a Christian? I have not read anything that says he has.

    Also, I’ve seen Collins’ book but have not yet purchased it. I will have to check it out sometime. BTW, who is it that would be a good example of a reply to Behe that demolishes his mouse trap example?

    Lastly, my statement was really just a general fire shot over the broader range of scientists who are straying from Darwin and starting to look at some of these complex ‘designs’ in the creation as simply unexplainable via evolution. But I’m certainly open to correction. 😉

  3. There are fewer biologists who think the evolution by natural selection is wrong than there are physicists who think that the theory of gravity is wrong. Really, if someone is telling you that biologists are abandoning the theory of evolution, you should ask that person for a source. They are not telling you the truth. (I’m speaking as a biologist). The list of scientists that the Discovery Institute maintains is mostly a list of engineers, doctors and chemists. It would be rather like asking a bunch of biologists what they think about quarks. Really, their opinions are hardly relevant. Given that most of the people on their list aren’t even biologists, it’s rather surprising how short their list is (it has a few hundred names on it).

    As to a source for the mousetrap example, Google Ken Miller & mousetrap. He’s shown what a lousy example that is as early as the mid 90s. Even Colbert points to some of the problems with that analogy in the video above. (I.e. that you can use all the parts of the mousetrap for other things, indeed you can even build a less effective mousetrap with fewer parts).

    Michael Behe admitted in the Dover trial that he thought the intelligent designer is God. I don’t know what denomination he is (or even what religion he is) but if he’s suggesting that God is responsible for the origin of species, that suggests to me he is a religious bloke (though certainly the converse isn’t true – many biologists who understand evolution are still able to be religious – certainly several of my co-workers are Christian, and one is Hindu).

  4. Thanks for the info. Actually, you can help clarify a little further… I’m not saying that scientists are rejecting all the ideas of evolution or that one particular person is feeding me bad information… I was under the impression that more scientists are starting to accept the fact that there is design in the universe, which doesn’t mean that all evolutionary aspects are wrong, but it does mean that you don’t have to be an atheist to be a good scientist and it also means that ‘evolution’ in general cannot explain everything we are finding. That’s really what I’m getting at. Darwinian Evolution has all too often demanded that you reject the idea of a creator, but the evidence that is being discovered by scientists (especially in microbiology) does not in any way demand that biologists reject the idea of a god or designer. That is what I would actually argue for. Does that help clarify my position? Sorry if I wasn’t clear enough earlier.

    Now, I know that this universe testifies to a designer. That’s clear enough to me. But that is not sufficient enough information to help us out in terms of who the designer is or what he is like in his actions or in his being. That is where the issue of additional revelation comes in, which I’m sure you have heard about. Has the Creator of the universe revealed himself in a way more clearly than he has in the creation?

    What are you thoughts on that? Thanks for the conversation and for the info on who’s broken down the mouse trap example. Colbert is really good at what he does. I’m always impressed by his comedy as well as his understanding of the issues that is expressed in his jokes. Of course, I would really like to know if he’s just an atheist or maybe an agnostic. I’ve just never bothered to look around for that information though. 🙂

    Thanks again for the reply. Take care and have a good weekend!

  5. On Colbert: It is my understanding that he is a practicing Catholic, though he is fairly careful to separate his on TV persona from real life.

    As to microbiologists (I am a microbiologist/molecular biologist), I think you will find very, very few microbiologists who say that they have seen evidence of design in their work. (I hate to say no microbiologists, because of course you’ll be able to find a microbiologist who will tell you that the sky is green, or that the moon is made of cheese, so you will also be able to find some who say that intelligent design is a valid concept). Evolution by natural selection is as well accepted as an underlying principle as the theory of gravity is for physicists. Even those microbiologists who believe in God (and in my experience, there are only slightly fewer scientists who believe in God as non-scientists) understand that evolution by natural selection is the best explanation we have for the diversity of microbial species (and for all of the “molecular machines” therein). Not just to explain one or two things, but the whole shebang (up to the universal common ancestor – where that first organism came from is not a question that evolution by natural selection is able to answer). The only place you will find any real number of folks who disagree with this is outside science. Organizations like the Discovery Institute are trying to say that there is a controversy and that more and more scientists are accepting the principle of design. This is a bald-faced lie. They can’t even say that it is merely a hopeful statement. It is completely untrue. You would have an easier time finding people who think the moon-landing didn’t happen or that the world is flat, than you would have to find biologists (even microbiologists) that think the principle of design is a valid one. Granted, the few that exist get a lot of attention (think Michael Behe), but that has more to do with the fact that the public at large likes what he is saying, not because there is any validity to his arguments.

    Whether or not you believe in God shouldn’t hinge on whether or not evolution is true. Because evolution by natural selection is perhaps the best idea in biology. With each passing year, we accumulate mountains of data that show that it is true. The theory of evolution by natural selection is on stronger ground now than it has ever been.

  6. Thank you for clarifying your background. That helps me get a better idea of what’s true out there and what’s actually being said by who. 🙂

    I understand what you are saying about your field and the position of various scientists/non-scientists regarding design.

    What it comes down to for me is the issue of historical data. Evolution deals with history, in the sense of time line and not merely the physical similarities and likenesses of various creatures to one another.

    In that sense (of history) whether you are a scientist or not, both types of people have to grapple with the historical data, both geological and written, to come to a final conclusion in terms of origins and the age of the earth. For example, I cannot accept any type of old earth scheme of history, especially recent scientific theories (even though a good case can be made for them), because they have not taken into account a global flood and the catastrophic ramifications it had on our current dating methods and especially the earth’s fossil record, etc.

    And once again, this all strikes at the heart of religious faith, in my case the Christian faith that is recorded in the Old and New Testament of the Bible. If I start to deviate from the historical narrative found in the Bible because other sources claim to have a theory that contradicts it, then I am left with no clear revelation of who God is or what God is like and what He created this world for since that revelation would then be unreliable were I to accept a contradictory historical time line from a scientific theory. Those questions (of a religious, anthropological and harmatological nature) are then either left up to my own personal understanding or they are completely unanswerable in any specific way. This is the predicament that Evolution has placed on the modern scientist who would want to be religious. Either he is left with a general agnosticism that cannot answer any religious question clearly or he is left to accept scientific theory as the best possible historical record and his own personal feelings or thoughts about a Designer/God that is totally relative to himself and still without any certainty.

    It boils down to, “Which authority will one accept?” Will one accept the authority of scientific theory for understanding origins and history? Or will one accept the authority of written revelation that contains historical data that can inform and possibly help to shape the interpretation of the scientific data into a viable theory that accounts for the geological and biological features of creation as well as the written record of history found in the Bible?

    To many times I believe we are all told that science and the Bible are against each other because the Bible is not a scientific text book and science is not a religious field of inquiry. While those sentiments are true in and of themselves, this doesn’t make science and the Bible contradictory… instead it makes them complimentary. The Bible gives us an authoritative chronology and history of the universe from God’s creational view point and science (in it’s various fields of study) seeks to understand the details of the physical creation in order to better understand the glory and beauty of, not only the creation, but also the Creator.

    At least that’s my summary take on it anyway… 😉

  7. It boils down to, “Which authority will one accept?”

    I’ve found it most useful to accept the authority of a mechanic when dealing with automotive repair issues. I’ve found it most useful to accept the authority of a plumber when my toilet backs up. I’ve found it most useful to refer to theologians for my existential crises, and physicists when I want to understand how atoms work.

    When it comes to how species originate, I’ll take the authority of biologists (though to be fair, I will dispute findings in my area of expertise, but outside my area of expertise, I find it most useful to look to others with expertise in the area).

    That said, it’s not my place to convince you which authorities to accept. My main point was that scientists don’t accept design. There are simply no data to support it. If one wants to support design, the only intellectually honest position is to say that one supports design because one’s religion says it is true.

    Evolution deals with history

    Yep, partially. It also deals with the present, and makes fantastic predictions about the future. No doubt you have heard about bird flu. The reason virologists are worried about it is because they know what kind of evolutionary changes are required to make H5N1 bird flu into a terribly dangerous pathogen, and they know that these changes are extremely likely (not certain, but extremely likely).

    There is also very recent work with HIV that shows that the reason we are so susceptible to HIV is that we have lost a defense to it that many apes have. But in the process of losing that defense to HIV, we gained a defense to a virus that is devastating to apes. So we are immune to that virus, while apes are immune to HIV. This will be very useful in the future for designing therapies to combat HIV.

    This doesn’t make science and the Bible contradictory… instead it makes them complimentary.

    Perhaps. In the same way that a cookbook and a carpentry manual are complimentary. They are written about subjects that have very little to do with each other. And to take one’s advice about how to make a cake from a carpentry manual would be rather silly.

  8. Okay, I understand your statements about authority and I appreciate that you mention that your field might disrupt the claims of other fields. That’s very helpful. I couldn’t agree more. I even agree that you should consult a biologist when looking into biological things! 🙂

    My question, though, is regarding your statement that scientists do not accept design. First, what (in your understanding) would constitute as evidence for design? Second, what principals in your field of microbiology claim that biology (and even science in general) can start to actually study/deal with the questions of design?

    Also, when you mentioned the “origin of species”… This is something that the Bible speaks directly about. Not in terms of internal biological makeup and details that a biologist would also study, but in terms of this… “living creatures according to their kinds” (Gen. 1:24, etc). It is clear that the Bible and Science overlap on this topic.

    This is a clear historical record (I understand some don’t accept that, but if one accepts the Bible as an historical authority…) that would contradict what science says about the origin of species. And vice versa, your field would contradict this record.

    So, last question, do you feel there is something wrong with a scientist (who is a Christian too) looking for evidence to support this authoritative record of the origin of species that says creatures didn’t evolve from one type of organism in to many different others but originated in their own kinds in a divine creative activity? What if a scientist says that the biology of living creatures is like a “web” instead of a “tree”? I don’t see why scientists cannot go off of the idea of a web instead of a tree? It would seem to work just as well if not better for a scientist wanting to do biology. But then again, your are the biologist. 😉

    Thanks again for the reply. I look forward to your response when you get a chance.

    P.S. – Regarding your thought about cooking and carpentry… I can agree with most of your thought, except for this: If the carpentry manual addresses something about building a kitchen to cook in… then later, a cook book is written that says that cooking should not be done in a kitchen… this would actual be a contradiction between the two manuals in which one would then have to pick which authority they were going to accept when it comes to the use of kitchens.

    Now, I’m just trying to make a parallel example of what I think is the problems between science and the Bible. The cooking/carpentry statement that we are developing is only ‘similar’ since it is not talking about the origin of either cooking/carpentry. But do you not see my point in what I’ve described above? I’m simply saying that there are issues between disciplines or topics (as you have said) that contradict and one must choose one authority over the other or live in ‘unknowing’. But if there is acceptance of one over the other, then what is wrong with trying to reconcile the contradictory “area” that the two disciplines “overlap” on?

    I’m simply saying that I have accepted the Bible’s claim to authority on this overlapping issue that science and the Bible both deal with. Scientists who accept this should not be looked down upon if they are doing things in a ligitimate scientific manner to try and account for other historical claims that they accept as true. I’m think you might agree, but I would certainly like to hear your thoughts.

  9. First, what (in your understanding) would constitute as evidence for design?

    Well, pretty good evidence of design would be (in no particular order):

    1) A Designer. Let’s put some evidence of a designer into the mix. Not some writings about a designer, but actual solid data. Reproducible data available for all the world, not just one guy alone in the woods, but something that everyone can see.

    2) Truly novel organisms. Places where the “designer” started from scratch and built something that wasn’t a very slight modification of some other species. And I mean novel. Where every single gene (or even most of them) look like something we’ve never seen before.

    3) Evidence of work of designer. When did he pop by and add new species that we see in the fossil record? Do we have evidence of his spacecraft landing? Do we have records of his holy entrance into the world during particular moments in geological history when new organisms appear?

    Second, what principals in your field of microbiology claim that biology (and even science in general) can start to actually study/deal with the questions of design?

    If you can’t think of a way to test an assertion (i.e. a way that mankind can actually derive data to support your statement), then it can’t be asked scientifically. We have ways to ask about design scientifically (see above) but so far, we’ve got nothing.

    But I don’t work on design. The people who do are the ones who have to prove their assertions to the rest of us. And quite frankly, I’ve read their arguments, and I’ve seen their data, and it’s rather embarassing. Not just controversial, but completely embarassingly bad. Bill Dembski uses various mathematical arguments to suggest “it’s all terribly improbable!”. But improbable isn’t enough. Improbable things happen every day, and yet no one uses improbability to prove *anything* in science, much less design. Behe uses a similar argument, saying it’s all much too improbable, and that none of these parts are useful by themselves. And yet, he’s been shown to be wrong. He suggested that the bacterial flagellum is too complex for the parts to be used for other things. But since he said that (in the mid-1990s), it’s been demonstrated that bacteria use individual flagellum parts for all kinds of different jobs. An honest scientist would say that that disproves his argument. But Behe continues to trot out that argument, suggesting to me that he isn’t honest. It hurts to give up on an idea that is wrong (I’ve had to do it many times), but if you’re honest, you do it.

    last question, do you feel there is something wrong with a scientist (who is a Christian too) looking for evidence to support this authoritative record of the origin of species that says creatures didn’t evolve from one type of organism in to many different others but originated in their own kinds in a divine creative activity?

    That’s a major difference between science and theology. Science doesn’t appeal to an authority (unless you are outside your field of expertise – no one has the time to be an expert in all fields). If you are in your field of expertise, you don’t say “I need to find a way to fit my data to the Origin of the Species or to the Bible”. You say, “What does this data tell me?”. As it happens, most of the data in biology fits with Darwin’s Origin of the Species (not all, but that’s why the Theory of Evolution has been updated). That’s not just a semantic difference. If there were truly problems with the theory of evolution, scientists would abandon it in a heartbeat – for whatever was better. So far, there’s nothing that’s come close.

    We don’t have an authority. We don’t try to match up to a book. We go where the data lead us.

    What if a scientist says that the biology of living creatures is like a “web” instead of a “tree”?

    A tree is actually a pretty bad term. A web is an ok term, but still not really all that useful. It’s easier to show evolutionary relationships by drawing them rather than by talking about them (when talking with people in person, I tend to prefer to draw and talk at a whiteboard, but here I have more limitations). However, I can refer you to this beautiful drawing showing several major groups of bacteria and archea, and their evolutionary relationship.


    Though these folks use tree and net, I blanche at both those terms. Ah well, language is a limitation. Anyway, the distance between any two organisms (as travelled on the lines) is an indication of the number of differences between the organisms. This is demonstrable by sequencing the DNA from the organisms. Whether organisms live in a deep sea vent or in your gut, they share basic genetic features that we can predict.


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