Who is Michael Behe? Is he a Christian? What are his statements, and are they valid and Biblical?

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

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Question: Who is Michael Behe? Is he a Christian? What are his statements and are they valid and Biblical?

Answer: Let me answer one-and-a-half of your questions by citing the Discovery Institute’s biographical information about their senior fellow, Michael Behe. (Please note that this is not the entire biography, and the emphasis in the second paragraph is mine.)

Michael Behe (born 1952 in Altoona, Pennsylvania) is a biochemist and an influential intelligent-design theorist. A Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, he received his PhD in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. His dissertation was on aspects of sickle-cell disease, and his postdoctoral work on DNA was conducted at the National Institute of Health. With research interests involving the delineation of design and natural selection in protein structures, he wrote what has been arguably the single most effective book so far in bringing the question of Darwin versus Design to public attention, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge of Evolution (Free Press, 1996). The magazines National Review and World both selected it as one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century.

Behe is a lifelong Roman Catholic who recalls of his childhood that, “I don’t recall evolution ever being a topic of discussion. It just didn’t register at the Behe house….I think [my parents’] lack of interest faithfully reflects a laissez-faire attitude of Catholics toward the theory. Evolution never was the problem in the Catholic Church that it was in various Protestant denominations.” (Emphasis mine, EDP).

https://www.discovery.org/a/10501/

So, why does this biographical information only answer half the question of whether or not Behe is a Christian? First, no one really knows who else is a Christian. That’s between the person and God. All we can do is inspect the fruit… so we really don’t know. Second, it depends on your definition of “Christian.” If an evangelical friend asked me that question, I would answer “No. Behe is Roman Catholic.” But if a Muslim friend asked me that, I would answer, “Yes… but in a Roman Catholic kind of way”… and wait for the opportunity to qualify what I said.

You see, there are arguably 2 billion people in the world who are “Christians” in the broadest sense of the term. This includes nominal believers, Roman Catholics, and cultish people like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons as well as Christo-pagans. By way of contrast, there are only about 600 million people who hold the Bible as the centerpiece of God’s revelation and claim to have a personal saving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Now, Roman Catholicism is not known for these tenets... and by all reports, Behe is a devout Catholic. So, I won’t hazard a guess as to whether he is a regenerated Christian as we evangelicals understand the term. But as always, I’m hopeful.

I continually pray for our Catholic friends... that they will cut through the weeds and come to the assurance of a Christ-centered salvation as opposed to their church-centered model. But whether Behe is saved or not, he is an important figure in the Christian culture. You see, his work as a biochemist supports the Teleological Argument for the existence of God... and that’s an argument worth fighting for.

If you are like I am — tired of the Darwinian over-reach in science — let alone philosophy! — you’ll love this guy. He really pokes that bear! But he does not make “Christian” statements per se... so he’s not committing any theological faux pas as far as I know. Behe is an “intelligent design” advocate. But intelligent design requires that a mind be behind creation, not specifically God. I’ve never heard Behe make the jump to God — but that’s okay. The “leaner” the claims, the better the argument... so “mind” is perfect.

Behe does have a lot of material on the web, and I can’t review it all. Since he believes that the earth is over 4 billion years old, Christians who hold a young-earth creation view will not like him. (I’m not one of them, of course.) But again, his focus is on science, not faith.

You don’t have to go any further than to look at Behe’s book titles to find out what he’s up to. Darwin's Black Box, The Edge of Evolution and Darwin Devolves. In each case, he uses the scientific method — and the most recent data — to point out different ways that Darwinian mechanisms fail to explain biochemical realities. Behe popularized the idea that Darwinian processes cannot account for the “irreducible complexity” we see in biochemical systems. That’s his calling card — but he’s not a one-trick-pony. I recommend that you read all of his books. (I’m working on his third.)

To call Behe an “earnest seeker” is to understate the issue. Behe is a tenured professor at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania — and as such, he has academic freedom. But — because he’s challenging Darwinism — he’s about as popular as a street-preacher at the Lilith Fair... banging-on about Ephesians 5 (... wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands...). The university honors his tenure... but it published a disclaimer about his work! To me, he’s a hero. I pray he’s a saved hero! ... but you understand my limits here.

Behe’s situation gives me a unique opportunity to demonstrate the genetic fallacy. My purpose in the following section is to call out all the PhDs who should know better than to ignore truth because of the metaphysical beliefs held by the seeker of truth. Follow the link below this paragraph; it will take you to a video of one of Behe’s lectures. Focus on minutes 6 through 8. At that point in his talk he admits to “going to church” … and he makes a little joke about the genetic fallacy.

https://www.discovery.org/v/an-empirical-argument-for-intelligent-design/

The genetic fallacy occurs when people call something that is true untrue because of the persons and/or process used to get to the truth. In his story, the scientific community said that Behe’s conclusions about the design-inference in our microorganisms were not valid because he is a church-attending Catholic. The inference is that he came by his conclusions through religion — and therefore — not through science.

But that’s a false conclusion — and I think you can see why: a thing is either true or it’s not true. Behe would have come to the same conclusions if he were not religious because his conclusions are based on the data. He used the scientific method — and not his religion! — to formulate his theses. It happens that his religion is consistent with what he found. But faith is meta-physical, not physical. It runs on a separate track than does the physical. That being said, they both get to the same destination: the City of Truth.

So, what is a legitimate role of faith for a scientist? Faith can motivate a person, but Behe either used the scientific method or he did not... and scientists love to remind us that the scientific method does not even consider philosophy or metaphysics. So, although Behe’s being Catholic is — by the scientific community’s insistence — a procedural non-issue, I will remind them that science was “invented” by Christians... and I don’t see anyone challenging gravity because Newton happened to be a theist.

Here’s my last defense for Behe: say we have two scientists working on parallel projects that are exactly the same. They are working in the same lab at the same time, using the same equipment, methods and data. To no one’s surprise, they arrived at the same result. However, one is an atheist and one is a Christian. Would the Christian scientist’s results be invalid because he’s a Christian? No! — and saying they are is a clear example of prejudice. But that’s how the scientific community treats Behe: with prejudice.

As a general observation, scientists do not make good philosophers… and they trip over simple items of logic — like the genetic fallacy — more frequently than their PhDs should allow.

I hope I answered your questions about Michael Behe. For now, this is all I have.

God bless you.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20200615 Darwin’s new clothes — the story of Michael Behe).

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