Michael Behe is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. His book, Darwin’s Black Box, argues that the existence of the natural world is better explained by the purposeful action of a designer than by unguided natural selection. Darwin’s Black Box was named Book of the Year by Christianity Today, and was included in National Review’s list of the 100 most important books of the 20th century.
Michael, what led you to write Darwin’s Black Box?
As a student I was taught, even in the Catholic schools I attended, that Darwinian evolution was the mechanism by which life came to develop on earth. Then, in the 1980s, I read Michael Denton’s book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, which discussed the difficulties with Darwinism. Although at the time I was an associate professor of biochemistry, and I should have known this stuff, I had no answers to the problems Denton described.
I went to the library to find out who had explained the evolution of fundamental life systems according to Darwin’s theory. I was astonished to find that, well, no one had. I got angry at that point, because I’d been led to believe in something that wasn’t true. Not because of any compelling evidence, but because that’s what I was supposed to believe in this day and age.
Five years later, I wrote Darwin’s Black Box, which concentrated specifically on biochemical systems, and on the complexity that could only have come about by purposeful intelligent activity.
Did you expect Darwin’s Black Box to receive so much attention?
As a Catholic, I realized that my book had philosophical and theological implications, but I really didn’t think it would create such a stir. When it came out, I was criticized by many Darwinists, and also lauded by many folks who liked the idea of intelligent design.
What surprised me most were the people who contacted me to say that my book had had a profound influence on them. At one convention, a woman came up to thank me for writing Darwin’s Black Box, saying that the book had converted her husband from atheism to Christianity.
I’ve received many emails from people telling me that my book helped them to deepen their faith, resolve their crises of faith, and even come to faith. One of the most interesting examples was that of former Supreme Court Judge Robert Bork, who converted to Catholicism in part because of my book. He said it showed him that plain natural law couldn’t explain life as Darwin claimed, and that something beyond that was responsible for life.
So you evangelized through your book.
Well, I wasn’t writing as an evangelist. I was writing as an angry biochemist whose subject area was being corrupted by an outdated theory that people held onto for philosophical reasons.
So here I find myself, years after writing the book, as a kind of mentor for people who had had problems believing in God simply because of the claims of Darwin’s theory. Simply by showing them the science, those claims were shown to be mistaken. I was just doing my job.
Not all of us are capable of writing books, just as not all of us have the ability to effectively practice one-on-one apologetics. What would you say to those would-be evangelists who are afraid to get involved?
Evangelization is one of our callings. A word, an example…you never know what God is going to use to turn somebody towards Him.
I heard of one woman whose office mates were always taking God’s name in vain. Whenever that happened, this woman crossed herself and looked down at the floor. Pretty soon, the swearing stopped.
Let’s face it: Most of the time, people aren’t pondering the four last things. Just by showing that you’re thinking of more permanent things than the hustle and bustle of daily life, you can have a profound effect on other people.
Did you ever engage anyone with the aim of evangelizing him?
When I was 28 or so, the bishop of my diocese decided to send parishioners from every parish to visit the homes of inactive Catholics, and invite them to come back to church. I thought to myself, Boy, I really don’t want to do that! But I said, “Okay, Lord, I will do this. But you owe me big time.”
I went out, and sometimes the people weren’t at home, and sometimes I got the door slammed in my face, but I also had some very good experiences. The people who did respond positively were overjoyed. It struck me that the upside was much greater than the downside.
What do you think about the Pope having a Twitter?
I think it’s great, because he can enter the consciousness of folks who don’t often get their news or topics of conversation from other sources. After all, St. Paul became all things to all people in order to win them over for Christ. Catholics should take advantage of every possibility to reach out to people, whether it’s through social media, or by old-fashioned word and example.
Copyright © 2013, Celeste Behe
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