Thanks to a cocktail of misguided public policies, Seattle’s downtown core, where we work, is awash with the mentally ill homeless. A sadly familiar figure is the man or woman furiously shouting, cursing, and gesticulating at an unseen conversation partner. There are many such individuals roaming about, crossing paths with the tourists, businesspeople, high-end shoppers, and art museum and symphony patrons. They remind me of a strange feature of the evolution debate.
Just as the mentally ill person’s fury is directed at an unknown party, much of scientific and popular publishing about evolution is aimed at an unnamed opponent. As a random example, here’s an article from Science Daily that crossed my desk this week, “A short jump from single-celled ancestors to animals,” reporting a study in the journal Developmental Cell. Without going into detail on the merits of this effort to minimize a glaring difficulty with Darwinism, the article doesn’t mention intelligent design. But it’s surely directed at us. Major evolutionary transitions are an aspect of life’s long history that Darwinian theory can’t explain but design can.
Often, when evolutionists argue with an unseen ID proponent, when the context is the Cambrian explosion or life’s mysterious origin, the object of their fury is Stephen Meyer. In other contexts, it might be Douglas Axe and Ann Gauger with their incisive questions on protein evolution. Mathematicians William Dembski and David Berlinski are invisible opponents, and so too is our daily reporting and analysis here at Evolution News.
Very often, though, when it comes to the concept of irreducible complexity — typically unnamed — the opponent they clearly have in mind is biochemist Michael Behe.
The highly effective new 60-minute documentary Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the Mystery of Molecular Machines, on sale now, makes the invisible visible. The film, written and directed by John West, is an introduction to Behe’s thought timed to the 20th anniversary of his revolutionary book Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. I’m proud to have played a small part in bringing the book before the public. As the literary editor at National Review at the time, I commissioned the (laudatory) review from distinguished NYU chemist Robert Shapiro that is briefly shown in the film.
Among other things, Revolutionary is a vindication of Behe, showing how science has refuted objections by Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller and others to Behe’s case for design, highlighting molecular machines like the bacterial flagellar motor. Those machines were of course unknown to Darwin, who would be flabbergasted by them. Their exquisite, irreducible complexity is still being investigated and revealed — making the invisible visible in another sense. For more, see the film’s trailer here.
Of course Behe is not actually invisible on the stage of biology. His presence is strongly felt. As the film shows, he has changed the terms of evolutionary discussions, an honor that also belongs to another Discovery Institute biologist, Michael Denton, whose book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, we learn, inspired Behe’s scientific journey.
Oh yes, evolutionists know who they’re shouting at, and to prove it, the phrase “irreducible complexity” is sometime allowed to pass their otherwise carefully sealed lips. It’s just that Darwin’s defenders strain to avoid tainting themselves by directly confronting the mild-mannered professor at Lehigh University. Revolutionary undoes their discretion by introducing us to Behe (and other ID theorists) in a dramatic and personally and intellectually revealing way. It’s a fine and accessible primer on ID that tells the story of what really is a scientific revolution.
We see Behe on the Lehigh campus, at home — just a hundred miles from Dover, Pennsylvania, where he famously clashed with Professor Miller at the 2005 Kitzmiller trial, under the eyes of John E. Jones and his ghostwriters from the ACLU. (That is Judge John E. Jones who, the film amusingly reveals, hoped that Tom Hanks would play him in the movie version of the court battle.) Behe is shown with his family — talking with his kids, and washing post-supper dishes. The humanizing effect is welcome.
As one paleontologist recounts here, after his own mind was opened to the cogency of design arguments, he met ID scientists and scholars and was surprised to find they bore little resemblance to what he expected based on media caricatures. The shy (as he describes himself), self-effacing, yet stubborn Dr. Behe may also come as a revelation to those who don’t know him but assume he must be a cartoon “creationist.”
Revolutionary is unlike other ID films I’m familiar with in the way it offers personal stories. One of the most startling concerns University of Idaho microbiologist Scott Minnich, who like Behe, testified at Dover and was censured for it by officials at his university. When contemplating the career perils of coming out for ID and publishing a journal article with Stephen Meyer on the bacterial flagellum, Dr. Minnich happened to be participating as a member of the Iraq Survey Group, assisting the U.S. government in a search for biological and chemical weapons hidden in the country.
He was taking shelter, in fact, in Saddam Hussein’s Perfume Palace, under approaching mortar fire, as a critical submission deadline loomed. Minnich recalls reflecting that “I may not be here tomorrow morning,” as he finally hit the button on his computer to send the file. Now that’s a kind of story from the scientific world that you don’t hear every day.
Behe, Minnich, Meyer, et al. continue to take fire from opponents who, frankly, don’t earn a lot of respect from me by failing to give credit to the authors of the theory they seek to surreptitiously assail. Revolutionary pays fitting tribute Professor Behe, who deserves to be called a hero.
Source: Evolution News & Views