Monday, November 19, 2012

Behe Right or Behe Wrong?

Monday November 19, 4:11 p.m.

Usually when I get up early on a Sunday and head on out, it's because of another day of food-and-anime with The Anime King. Yesterday, I did indeed get up fact, it was the earliest I'd ever been up on a Sunday in Toronto at 6:30 a.m.....but it wasn't for my good friend. Instead, it was for the argument of Intelligent Design!

I'm not a religious person at all. Never have been, never will be. But my fine sister-in-law is very much so. We've gotten along well with no problems, though, and we've barely touched upon the topic that separates us. However, a few weeks ago, she informed me about a series of lectures that Dr. Michael Behe was giving at places like the University of Toronto, and asked me if I would be interested in taking a look at one of them. Well, I was a bit intrigued about what Intelligent Design was all about, although I was pretty confident that my religious non-beliefs would not be swayed.

And so yesterday, my brother and my bleary-eyed self went to a Richmond Hill community church gym to hear this professor from Pennsylvania give this talk. My brother had been expecting a lot of the dyed-in-the-wool middle-aged and elderly folks just to show up, but to his surprise, half of the audience was quite a bit younger than us. In any case, Dr. Behe gave a talk on his concept of Irreducible Complexity which explains that some systems are so complex that they cannot be broken down into simpler units....he used the common mouse trap as an analogy for the common cell. Why can the cell function with its parts such as mitochondria or cilia? Obviously having given this talk so often and so long, his delivery was as smooth as silk, bringing in some pop cultural references such as "Calvin & Hobbes", "The Far Side" and even the "Ghostbusters" logo. He also spoke of that famous sci-fi trope of individual cells being microscopic organic machines. And yes, he did hint at the firestorm of controversy between Intelligent Design and Darwinism, likening the lot of Designers to life in the old Soviet Union.

There were a few questions from the audience at the end of the talk but despite the host's proud assertions of some of the liveliness of the talks downtown, I think giving a talk involving a battle over the origins of life and biochemistry is never going to be an easy sell on a Sunday morning when people may not have had their coffee and bacon n' eggs. As for me, what I got from Dr. Behe's talk was that after nearly 2 centuries, Darwinism is getting slightly ragged and there are perhaps some holes forming in that quilt, but I'm not as eagerly willing to fill those holes with a divine solution as Dr. Behe has been. Perhaps there still are scientific explanations out there but not yet discovered. Maybe higher beings did come to this Earth millions of years ago and planned everything out, but I certainly won't say that they were supernatural ones.  Another interesting observation is that Behe never directly said that God was responsible for creating things such as the parts of a cell, although the fact that he was speaking from the middle of a church intimated things clearly enough for me, at least.

Still, the good doctor seemed like the type to have a good friendly debate about this over a beer. If it hadn't been for the fact that the both of us were constrained by time, I probably would have approached him for a question or two afterwards.

Behe can be found anywhere on the Net, but here's one page:

And here's a YouTube of one of his lectures: