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Behe on Dawkins

In listing the “100 Most Influential People of the Year,” Time Magazine included Richard Dawkins and asked Michael Behe to comment on his significance. Once the editors at Time got their hands on Mike’s piece, however, they took some of the bite out of it (click here for what Time posted). What Behe originally wrote is the following (posted with his permission):

Of his nine books, none caused as much controversy — or sold as well — as last year’s The God Delusion. Yet the leading light of the recent atheist publishing surge, Oxford University’s Richard Dawkins, has always been a man driven by the big questions. Born in Kenya in 1941 of British parents, he received a mild Anglican upbringing. But at the age of sixteen Dawkins discovered Charles Darwin’s theory, and thought he’d found a pearl of great price.

Obsolete imperialist myth-maker

His academic career as an evolutionary biologist got off to a fast start in the 1970′s with his first book, The Selfish Gene, which argued a then-unfashionable notion: like many politicians in Congress, individual genes of a genome are looking out just for their own good. So if somehow an unconscious gene mutated to be copied more effectively, it would outcompete its fellow DNA fragments. The fundamental idea of this “gene-centered” view of evolution had been proposed by other researchers. But, using his remarkable gift of scientific exposition, Dawkins painted the abstruse concept so clearly, and drew out the logic of its problematic premises so brightly, that it quickly became evolutionary orthodoxy.

Dawkins pushed the old idea in new directions. He argued that genes shape not only the body of an animal, but also its external environment: the imagined genes that move a beaver to build a dam are working for their own survival no less than the genes that shape the beaver’s tail. Even human thoughts were fitted to the Procrustean mold. He coined the word “meme” to denote fragments of ideas, such as cultural fads or music lyrics, that might replicate within brains like genes in a cell. And into the disreputable category of meme he firmly placed religion, calling it a virus of the mind.

With the big questions of life and mind supposedly solved in principle, Dawkins has in the past several decades abandoned research, and turned instead to persuading society of the correctness of his views. It was for Dawkins that computer software billionaire Charles Simonyi endowed the Oxford Chair of the Public Understanding of Science, freeing Dawkins to write newspaper articles, produce films, and travel the world to spread the meme that, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference.” A stark message, certainly. But true, thinks Dawkins, and he will not shrink from saying so.

The God Delusion, which deals more with philosophy than science, has been panned as amateurish by academic reviewers. Yet even a Roman Catholic intelligent design proponent like myself, who thinks Dawkins’ conclusions follow much less from his data than from his premises, has to admire the man’s energy and determination. Concerning those big questions, Someone once advised us to be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm.

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25 Responses to Behe on Dawkins

  1. What a writer—Behe:

    Concerning those big questions, Someone once advised us to be either hot or cold, but not lukewarm. Whatever the merit of his ideas, Richard Dawkins is not lukewarm.

    He’s right! And so is Denyse. And so concerning the present battle—one wonders—might it take a Yael to drive a stake through the temple of naturalism?

    By the way—why’d TIME have to make it look like Behe gets his info from the Bible? Don’t they know that Einstein and even the Soviet nomenklatura used those metaphors?

  2. [...] Richard Dawkins By Michael Behe Uncommon Descent gives us what is said to be the original version of this, below at the end. Of Richard Dawkins’ nine books, none caused as much controversy or sold as well as last year’s The God Delusion. The central idea—popular among readers and deeply unsettling among proponents of intelligent design like myself—is that religion is a so-called virus of the mind, a simple artifact of cultural evolution, no more or less meaningful than eye color or height. [...]

  3. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference.”

    Indeed, and he is intent at spreading this “good news” to all with the utmost “design, purpose” and anything but “pointless indifference”.

    Considering this and that he sees “infidel” creationists, IDists and anyone religious as “wicked” (no evil???), none of these actions of his make sense except in the light of schizophrenia.

    If he really believed himself, and was not mentally ill, he would not be doing that without acute awareness of self-contradiction of the worse kind.

    Go figure.
    ———————-
    Off topic: Could I suggest darkening up the blockquote text a little – it’s awfully light and not easy to read – in fact near impossible to read within the comment preview section.

  4. I’m also a bit toasted that Time had Behe saying he found Dawkins’ ideas “deeply unsettling”…as if to imply that Behe is somehow shaken by what Dawkins has to say. When in fact, Behe noted that Dawkins’ latest product has been “panned as amateurish.”

  5. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference.”

    That is exactly how I DO NOT see the universe.

    I agree with Alfred “I invented Darwinism before Darwin” Russel who wrote,

    There are laws of nature but they are purposeful. Everywhere we look we are confronted by power and intelligence.

  6. 6
    sagebrush gardener

    I’m also a bit toasted that Time had Behe saying he found Dawkins’ ideas “deeply unsettling”…

    I don’t know if Behe actually said this or not, but my wife was recently interviewed for a magazine article and when the article came out, it had quotes in my wife’s name that were totally fabricated. This happened even after the magazine’s “fact checker” called my wife to verify the quotes, and my wife clearly told them that is not what she said. The original interview was by email so we have an exact record of what was actually said. I would take any quotes in a magazine article with a grain of salt — as “based on a true story” perhaps.

  7. Um, that would be Alfred Russel Wallace.

    But here is another good quote from the pioneed of evolution

    Then, as you know, I hold that there was a subsequent act of creation, a giving to man, when he had emerged from his ape-like ancestry, of a spirit or soul. Nothing in evolution can account for the soul of man. The difference between man and the other animals is unbridgeable. Mathematics is alone sufficient to prove in man the possession of a faculty unexistent in other creatures. Then you have music and the artistic faculty. No, the soul was a separate creation.

  8. The Selfish Gene, Preface:

    We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.

    The Selfish Gene, final chapter:

    We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth

    Combined:

    Survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes – have the power to defy the selfish genes of [their] birth

    Am I just a “deluded faith-head, incapable of rational argument”, or is their a contradiction here? I had thought Dawkins was saying something akin to “computers can break free from their circuits”…
    Truly, there are ways of being stupid only available to very intelligent people.

  9. Okay one last quote from Alfred Russel Wallace to refute Dawkins that the universe has no purpose.

    Is there guidance and control, or is everything the result of chance? Are we solitary in the cosmos, and without meaning to the rest of the universe; or are we one in ‘a stair of creatures,’ a hierarchy of beings? Now, you may approach this matter along the metaphysical path, or, as a man of exact science, by observation of the physical globe and reflection upon visible and tangible objects. My contribution is made as a man of science, as a naturalist, as a man who studies his surroundings to see where he is. And the conclusion I reach in my book is this: That everywhere, not here and there, but everywhere, and in the very smallest operations of nature to which human observation has penetrated, there is Purpose and a continual Guidance and Control.”

  10. 10

    Why do you even submit stuff when they are going to butcher it like that? That’s ridiculous.

  11. At least now we know that CNN got a good “editor”. :)

    tragicmishap, I agree. What is the point in submitting something if in the end it looks like your some whining fool that is afraid of Mr. Dawkins.

    Anyway the truth hangs out there, now :) Thanks Dr. Dembski, for posting this!

  12. A question. Isn’t a bad practise like cut a text without author’s permission a deplorable act? I strongly think its is. But when the magazine also write under author’s name something (quoted below) he didn’t write this is not a deplorable practice, this is mere lying. Isn’t Mike in the condition to prosecute against Time?

    “It is a measure of the artful way Dawkins, 66, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Oxford, tells a tale and the rigor he brings to his thinking that even those of us who profoundly disagree with what he has to say can tip our hats to the way he has invigorated the larger debate.”

  13. “[...] blindly programmed [...]”

    There is no logic in this, and a contradiction.

    It’s either blind OR programmed. It cannot be blind AND programmed at the same time.

  14. Isn’t a bad practise like cut a text without author’s permission a deplorable act?

    what do you expect? its Time. The same group that puts Rosie on the 100 most influencial, and leave the President of the United States off.

    What a crock this magazine is. If they hate the President, at least they can say he is influencial in a bad way. But, to leave him off, is ridiculous. Its intellectually dishonest.

    So, why is anyone surprised that they would change Behe’s writeup. This is no longer a news magazine, but a propoganda machine.

  15. Sladjo,

    If you’re going to be a serious Darwinist, then you’ll simply have to get used to living with bad logic and stark contradiction, to wit:

    -the universe is a great cosmic accident, but life itself has meaning and purpose

    -morality is subjective, but eating meat is immoral

    -ID is creationist pseudoscience, but the just-so stories of Darwinism are real science

    -our genes are selfish, even when they create selflessness

    -an ordered universe can come about entirely on its own, though the principle underlying it is entropy

    -blind, undirected forces can accidentally mimic purposeful intelligence

    -ID isn’t scientific because it’s not falsifiable, and oh by the way, it is routinely falsified.

    -the difference between science and religion is that science focuses on fact and religion focuses on faith, though all those gaps in the fossil record need not trouble us because surely there are transitional fossils out there that simply haven’t been found yet.

  16. Time had to cut Behe’s comments by more than 60%. How would others have re-worded his comments to fit into three short paragraphs.

  17. I would have told Behe how many words he had to cut to, let him do so, then publish his shortened version.

    But that’s just me.

  18. Sladjo and TerryL :

    Great points. I wish the blind goddelusionist and his adoring disciples could see just how bad his logic really is.

    “It’s either blind OR programmed. It cannot be blind AND programmed at the same time.” Dawkins et al. think that they themselves are programmed and that free will is an illusion. Yet they still want us to freely choose their view! Their postulations imply that no one can change their own mind. IOW, they are walking self-contradictions. The lights are on the music is blaring but nobody’s home.

    Darwinists and especially the atheist types are dead from the neck up. Every time I find that actually thinks, they become a theist in short time once you spread out the facts before them in a clear way.
    ————————–
    jerry: cutting is one thing – changing and adding to the words to the point where the author is made to say what he didn’t is fraud => TIME is a fraud.

    BEHE commented thus,

    After their editing, it came out rather more insipid than I wrote it. They asked for 400-500 words, but pared it down to 187 — and that’s after adding their own phrases (e.g., “deeply unsettling to proponents of intelligent design,” “the rigor he brings to his thinking,” “the Bible advises us,” etc.)!

    See HERE

    Do the math. TIME is a fraud. They must be the same nerds that run wikipedia’s science sections – another big time fraud.

  19. 19
    The Scubaredneck

    tragicmishap, Borne, et al,

    Before we go poo-pooing this too much, let’s not ignore the significance of Mike Behe being invited to comment on Dawkins in this context. This fact alone suggests that ID in general and Mike in particular is having a pretty big impact. If Time really wanted to totally cop out, they could have just asked a Darwinist crony like Daniel Dennet or Eugenie Scott to sing Dawkins’ praises but they asked Mike Behe. The editorial hatchet job notwithstanding, this is an exciting development that we should be celebrating!

    The Scubaredneck

  20. Scubaredneck, I’m not so sure that’s the way to look at it.

    Behe says:

    TIME Magazine asked me to write an entry on Richard Dawkins for “The TIME 100″ this year. After their editing, it came out rather more insipid than I wrote it. They asked for 400-500 words, but pared it down to 187 — and that’s after adding their own phrases (e.g., “deeply unsettling to proponents of intelligent design,” “the rigor he brings to his thinking,” “the Bible advises us,” etc.)! (at EvolutionNews)

    The added phrases, IMO, represent what Time expected to get from Behe but didn’t. After all, Behe is a Catholic and an ID proponent, surely Time expected something that sounded a little more religious and creationist.

    As clever as they think they are, I can only guess Time wanted to present something as poetically ironic as a religious zealot reacting to Dawkins. Having not received what they were looking for, they found nothing ethically challenging about pushing Behe’s comments in a more religious direction.

    I don’t see a recognition of ID so much as I see a continued effort by media to push ID as religious anti-science.

  21. Borne,

    Thank you. I wasn’t aware of what Behe comments were on the re-write. It is standard to ask for more than you expect to use but the additions he didn’t include are uncalled for.

  22. 22
    Vladimir Krondan

    mattghg said,

    is their a contradiction here?

    There is. It has been pointed out by David Stove in his numerous essays on Dawkins. Stove calls it the “with one bound Jack was free! stuff”. You know, like in those children’s adventure stories. The hero, Jack, is hopelessly hog-tied, gagged, and duct-taped to the furniture. So hopeless is Jack’s predicament, that not even the author can think of a believable way out. So the author begins the next paragraph with “With one bound, Jack was free!”.

  23. Scubaredneck, it seems Denyse supports your take on the significance of Behe being asked by Time to pen comments on Dawkins, that it represents the impact ID is having:

    In the big picture, of course, what’s really significant is that they asked Mike Behe to write the thing at all…That such a sturdy organ of materialism as Time would subtly misrepresent him is perhaps not nearly as significant. (Post-Darwinist)

  24. How about organising a protest with a letter to TIME with all our email addresses? And then abstain from reading, buying, subscribing to TIME for ONE year?

    And make it a news story and have it published in NEWSWEEK?

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