Michael Behe comes to PSU

30Mar09

The newly formed Penn State “Science and the Bible Club” (lulz) brought in ID heavy hitter Michael Behe to talk to a standing-room-only 101 Thomas.  The first part of his talk was about the 5 points that make up his argument for design, and the second part was responses to his critics.  Except that he apparently took too long on the first part and only went over 2 of the 5 or 6 responses he had in his slides.  This is all presumably the same standard stuff he presents whenever he talks and I won’t really go into detail.

It then went on to Q&A, wherein the sciencey community of Penn State did an excellent job throwing out questions at Behe.  No really heavy “oh damn!” moments, but a few of the commenters did deliver moderate smackdowns.  I’m not going to go into detail here either, partially because my memory is lousy, but partially because I can’t repeat all of it.  The problem, I realized as I left, is that Behe is really the ideal guy to bring to a college campus.  Here’s why:

Guys like Casey Luskin and Michael Egnor are easier to hit back at, they make arguments more geared at uneducated lay people, which means that they can also be exposed as being wrong in terms understandable to more educated lay people.  Behe’s argument is basically a god of the gaps, but he uses a fair amount of biology and biochemistry to support it, and in a way that’s still fairly understandable to the lay person.

But when you argue back against him, you have to involve more complicated science, and as a biochemist, he can respond in kind with complicated science.  For example, he referenced Lenski’s experiments many times, but with the assertion that Lenski’s E.coli did not evolve any complex systems (a point which a later questioner asserted would be counter to the evolutionary hypothesis) and only discarded unused systems.  Even most educated people probably don’t know about Lenski, and then it’s just two guys arguing a about something that’s too confusing and complex to understand.  At that point, then, I would assume it’s easier to fall back to believing Behe’s simple hypothesis, since they have no way to understand who’s winning the argument.

Or something.

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