Biologist speaks for intelligent design

Penguins, yes. Flagella, no.

One of the nation’s leading proponents of intelligent design told a Kansas University audience Thursday that Darwinism or evolution can explain how, in the absence of predators, a bird might lose its ability to fly and begin to walk on the ground.

But it can’t explain how complex living systems are built – the designs are too complex to have been randomly generated, said Michael Behe, author of “Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution.”

Behe’s lecture, titled “The Argument for Intelligent Design in Biology,” was part of the “Difficult Dialogues” lecture series sponsored by KU’s Hall Center for the Humanities and KU’s Biodiversity Institute. About 100 people attended.

A professor of biology at Lehigh University, Behe’s main argument was that evolution has become so ingrained and accepted that it becomes difficult to raise any questions about it in the scientific community.

“When I start to point out problems, often people don’t have time to listen,” he said.

He said intelligent design was not a philosophy, but a scientific conclusion that uses inductive reasoning.

“An inductive conclusion is a scientific conclusion,” he said.

He listed several points, including:

¢ The intelligent design argument is “not a mystical conclusion.” He said the design argument is a recognition there is a “purposeful arrangement” of the parts that make up an organism.

¢ He said “everyone agrees” that aspects of biology include the appearance of design. Cells appear to be arranged as a collection of complex molecular machines, he said.

¢ He said he recognizes evolution has occurred but it doesn’t explain everything.

For example, random mutation and natural selection can’t explain how complex mechanisms, such as the whiplike flagella “motors” that propel bacteria, developed, he said. So that leads to one controversial conclusion: They were designed that way, he said.

Behe also said some complex biological parts are irreducible – if you take them apart, they no longer have the same function.

During a question-and-answer session, Leonard Krishtalka, director of KU’s Biodiversity Institute, asked Behe how he could know the mind of God well enough to determine how far an organism’s parts could be reduced to nondesigned components.

Behe said he has been careful not to say “God did it” when speaking about the structure of the flagellum being irreducible.

“It just says that an intelligent designer was involved,” Behe said. “We deduce design from the purposeful arrangement of parts.”

Behe said he doesn’t get into questions of who the designer is or how and when the design was done.

“I do not claim to know the mind of God,” he said.