Michael Behe: Cunning linguist

In an interview with Point of Inquiry, the host asks Behe if he’ll clarify whether, “just to be clear, you think the young earth creationists are completely wrong.”

“Uh, yes I do,” Behe confidently replies. He pauses, the interviewer gathers himself for the next question, and Behe (reaching deep into his rhetorical bag of tricks) adds: “Well, it depends what you mean by “completely.'”

He disagrees about the age of the earth, but agrees that “there is a God behind nature.” The ID he advocates is religious, it does not implicate (as he’s previously suggested) “an angel–fallen or not; Plato’s demi-urge; some mystical new age force; space aliens from Alpha Centauri; time travelers; or some utterly unknown intelligent being.” Intelligent design creationism is creationism, just not young earth creationism.

Later in the interview, he says that he thought his testimony in Dover went really well. The testimony in which he said ID is as scientific as astrology, and in which he literally pushed aside a stack of papers and books on immune system evolution, all the while insisting that (while he hadn’t read them) none of them could answer his questions.


  1. #1 Dan
    November 10, 2007

    I just listened to the podcast.

    Wow. Talk about a poorly done interview. Repeatedly, Behe is posed soft questions, and not contested on his bald-faced ad hoc assertions. The CFI podcast took his word that the Intelligent Design Movement is rooted in honest inquiry while the “Darwinist Establishment” is dogmatic and non-empirical.

    My opinion of the Center for Inquiry Podcast just dropped a couple notches.

  2. #2 FhnuZoag
    November 10, 2007

    Not that I’m endorsing this interview or anything (since I haven’t listened to it – it’s not like Behe ever says anything new), but interviewing someone isn’t easy. You have to strike a balance between pushing the hard questions, and not pissing off the interviewee to the extent that no one will ever give you an interview again.

  3. #3 Dan
    November 11, 2007

    Sure, but the onus should be on Behe to make himself appear credible, not on the interviewer to do that for him. It should be pretty darn easy, for an interviewer who has done his or her homework, to field hard questions that expose charlatans without being rude.

    Unless asking hard questions is considered rude (like for IDers), in which case they shouldn’t be invited on a show about “inquiry.”

  4. #4 Neal
    November 11, 2007

    A good news or public affairs interview should challenge the interviewee’s ideas, assumptions, anomalies in thought and past statements or actions. A well-prepared interviewee comes in with a message to deliver, a point of view to express or ideas or vision to share with the audience. The price the interviewee pays to reach that audience is having to address tough questions – and sometimes impertinent, ignorant or obnoxious questions – from the interviewer. A good interviewer owes it to his or her audience (and, frankly, to the “guest”) to do advance research and ask good, probing, focused and intense questions.

  5. #5 Jim
    November 12, 2007

    Dan it is as if we listened to different interviews. I have heard many other interviews with Behe and I disagree with you that this one was not challenging, it was the most challenging interview that I have heard with him. An interview is very different than a formal debate. And while the interviewer did not have a debate on ID with the Behe, he did (I think very deftly and by disarming him) get him on record on a number of things that in effect made Behe contradict his previous long held positions on a number of things (that ID isnt about advancing religion, that Behe admits he considers himself on the side of God against the atheistic scientists, that it isnt just anti-evolution, but that it has positive scientific claims, that creationists are wrong about their claims).

    He let Behe have enough rope to hang himself, and really exposed the paucity of his scientific thinking with the theological question at the very end. And did you hear him seem to stammer when asked if the book was more anti-evolution or pro-ID?

    Neal, did you hear the interview before you made your comment, because your right in everything you said, and I think you describe this one with Behe.

  6. #6 Dan
    November 12, 2007

    “that ID isnt about advancing religion”
    Behe didn’t concede that at all.

    “that Behe admits he considers himself on the side of God against the atheistic scientists”
    That’s just it, he completely got away with saying that those on the side of God are interested in open inquiry, whereas the atheistic scientists are not. That’s deceitful, either to himself or to the audience. Sure, the interviewer asked him about the evolution of the immune system and the stack of papers placed in front of him during Dover, but Behe’s response (that they talk about evolution at all) was accepted at face value.

    “that it isnt just anti-evolution, but that it has positive scientific claims”
    Such as? Was Behe asked to explain what he is claiming about the supposed design? This issue was not pressed forward at all, and it should have been.

    All the interviewer did was to let Behe have his stage for half an hour, where he might seem credible to someone who was less familiar with Behe and the ID movement.

  7. #7 J-Dog
    November 12, 2007

    FnuZoag – I beg to differ. I have taught interviewig professionally, and interviewing is all about getting the interviewee talking about a subject. A good interviewer will skillfully follow up one question with a further request for more explanation/information.

    If an interviewee wants to walk-off or sulk at being asked a tough question, then f(*k them, they shouldn’t have joined.

    We’re not talking of course, about asking a REAL tough questions to Behe, such as “Why did you resort to gratuitious insults when you were asked questions about your book by Graduate Student Abbie Smith?” and “Are you now, or have you ever been a card-carrying member of the Cretins Party?”, although I would be sorely tempted to ask him these question, were Behe ever fortunate enough to warrent a real interview.

  8. #8 MartinC
    November 13, 2007

    I thought DJ Grothe did OK with his interview but he is not a biologist and doesn’t really understand the weak points of the ID case. To really cause the IDiots problems you don’t need to attack the finer points of irreducible complexity, you need to concentrate on the disparity of views about the age of the earth that different IDiots claim. They avoid this issue like the plague as it frightens their creationist supporters. The IDers need the creationsists on their side and the creationists use the disco institute as a veneer of respectability (some of the IDiots actually have real university degrees, even biology degrees!).

  9. #9 GreatBlackHope
    February 11, 2008

    Thats exactly what DJ did and Behe seemed to stammer at that point. The guy seemed delusional about his performance in Dover. Great interview, imho.

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