Michael J. Behe
Travels from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Contact Michael J. Behe
FAITH, REASON, and SCIENCE As Catholics we understand that the universe and life have been purposefully created by God. Yet we are surrounded by loud voices, amplified by the media, such as those of the "New Atheists", which insist that no trace of purpose can be rationally discerned in nature. In my talks I show the clear but unheralded conclusion from modern science, especially from biology, is that the more closely nature is studied, the more profoundly nature points to purposeful design.
In the mid-19th century the cell was thought to be a simple glob of "protoplasm", no more than a microscopic piece of Jell-O. Today we realize that the cell is an elegant, nanoscale factory, which contains machinery of matchless sophistication. For example, the work that garnered the 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine showed that microscopic trucks motor through the cell on highways made of molecules, guided to their destinations by molecular signposts. Other molecular machines unload the supplies from the truck into their receiving containers. All this and much more is coordinated by digital information stored in the cellular computing system of DNA and its accessory controls. Similarly, a hundred years ago the Earth was thought to be a rather bland, unremarkable place. Yet advances in our understanding of chemistry and physics show the marvelous suitability of the universe in general and planet Earth in particular for supporting life. From the chemistry of carbon -- necessary for building the molecules of life -- to the physics of water, knowledge derived from science strongly supports a Catholic view of the universe as a special habitat designed for life. Unfortunately, the message sent incessantly in modern media is that science contradicts faith in a world made by God, a world purposefully designed to support life. In recent years this message has been amplified especially by a group labeled the "New Atheists" in an ongoing assault on religious belief. Using jaw-dropping examples from the most modern research, in my presentation I show that, science is not the enemy of faith, but its firm ally.
Michael J. Behe was awarded the Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Pennsylvania for his dissertation research on sickle-cell disease in 1978. From 1978-1982 he did postdoctoral work on DNA structure at the National Institutes of Health. From 1982-85 he was Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Queens College in New York City, where he met his wife. In 1985 he moved to Lehigh University where he is currently Professor of Biochemistry. In his career he has authored over 40 technical papers and two books, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution and The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism, which argue that living system at the molecular level are best explained as being the result of deliberate intelligent design. The books have been reviewed by the New York Times, Nature, Philosophy of Science, Christianity Today, and many other periodicals. He and his wife reside near Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with their nine children.
Faith, Reason, and Science
Pope St. John Paul II wrote, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself.” Yet it seems almost daily that loud voices in the media tell us science has disproven God, and that the Christian faith is no more than irrational emotion. Which is true? Are faith and science really at war? Is reason more than science? Is the beauty and elegance we experience in nature an illusion or reality? Using stunning examples from modern science this talk demonstrates the enduring wisdom of the traditional understanding of the strong mutual reinforcement of faith and reason.
Purpose at the Very Foundation of Life
Microscopic trucks drive through cells on highways made of molecules, guided to their destinations by infinitesimal signposts; other lilliputian biological machines unload their cargo into receiving containers for shipment. No, it’s not a video cartoon fantasy — it’s the research that won the 2013 Nobel Prize for Medicine. This talk will explore amazing scientific work that shows overwhelming evidence of purpose in life, in a universe arranged for its flourishing.
Purpose and Accident in Health and Life
The Psalmist knew what he was talking about — we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. Our eyes contain technology more sophisticated than any video camera. Our brains effortlessly solve puzzles that elude the most advanced computers. Yet cancer, birth defects, and other afflictions are all too common. Does illness show that our bodies are poorly designed? Or are biological failings somehow in a different category than the machinery of life? This talk explores the broad line dividing design from accident in life and health.