Leo Behe On His Father

Leo Behe’s father is Michael Behe, the author of Darwin’s Black Box, which is responsible for the intelligent design argument that instances of “irreducible complexity” in nature indicate that evolution alone, without a creating intelligence intervening, could not have created life as it is on Earth. (My favorite short, accessible, and engaging summations of what’s wrong with Behe’s hypothesis are Qualia Soup‘s videos on the subject.) Leo recently became an atheist and soon will become a philosophy major.  He just gave a thoughtful interview to the The Humanist about his deconversion despite his strict homeschooling.  He says his parents have not punished him or tried to silence him for his disbelief and has these interestingly nuanced things to say about his dad:

The HumanistAbout your father, you previously blogged: “I believe that he does have doubts and does see conflicts between science and the Bible, and he therefore continues to reshape his faith so as to dodge those conflicts.” Why do you think he has doubts and why does he continue to reshape his faith?

Behe: I think that all scientists who hold to a particular religious creed must experience conflicts with their sacred texts and their scientific observations. I can’t speak for my father’s personal beliefs specifically, but I believe that the constant reinterpretation of sacred texts to correct conflicts between theological claims and scientific discoveries says something about the faith upon which those claims are based. For irreducible complexity particularly, the glaring inefficiencies apparent in life—along with a universe that appears more chaotic and indifferent the more we learn about it—will challenge the religious beliefs of any scientist and continue to force additional reinterpretations of sacred texts. It is my hope that eventually such texts will lose all credibility.

The HumanistWhile you have been critical of intelligent design, you have defended your father as a nice and honest person. What more would you like the public to know about him?

Behe: I would like everyone to realize that he doesn’t have any sort of religious agenda and he’s not trying to denigrate science in any way. Long-held beliefs, especially beliefs developed during childhood, operate on a very deep and basic level of thought—almost subconsciously. These beliefs can exist independently in a perfectly honest and intelligent scientist who is simply doing his part to further theories or ideas that he believes are supported by the scientific data. The best way to progress is through respectful and thoughtful discussion and debate, as it has always been.

For his account of how he came to be a nonbeliever and for his unequivocal rejection of many theistic arguments read the full interview.  Leo’s blog is The Joyful Atheist.

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