Lehigh University biochemist and IDT spokesperson Dr. Michael Behe was recently asked by the Discovery Institute (DI) to write about covid-19. The following is to be found among what he wrote:
“do I think viruses were designed? Yes, I most certainly do! The viruses of which we are aware — including the coronaviruses, Ebola, and HIV — are exquisitely, purposively arranged, which is the clear signature of intelligent design [sic, properly “Intelligent Design”, since this “signature” is not being attributed to “strictly natural causes”]. Well, then does that mean the designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] is evil and wants people to suffer? No, not necessarily. I’m a biochemist, not a philosopher. Nonetheless, I see no reason why a designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] even of such things as viruses should be classified as bad on that basis alone.” – Michael Behe (10-03-2020, https://evolutionnews.org/2020/03/evolution-design-and-covid-19/
Behe concluded the article stating that he has “no reason to think either that viruses weren’t designed [meaning, by a Divine Designer] or that the designer [sic, Divine Name = properly capitalized, “the Designer”] of viruses isn’t good”.
Since Behe didn’t raise the possibility of covid-19 being human-made, iow, a synthetic, manufactured virus, rather than arising naturally, i.e. “in nature”, this means that in his “heart of hearts” he truly believes covid-19 is “designed” by “the Intelligent Designer” (meaning, the God of his Roman Catholic faith). That alone should be a shocker statement enough to throw the average religious person of faith and belief in God out of their seat, full of doubt toward this IDM leader. Does Behe really believe what he is saying or is it just parlour tricks to draw an audience for IDT?! Let’s leave aside the moralizing about “good Designer” vs. “bad Designer” at this stage to simply focus on Behe and other IDM leaders’ framing of what is and isn’t “designed” and “by whom”.
Neuroscientist and surgeon Michael Egnor, another of the few Roman Catholics remaining in the IDM, followed up a couple of weeks later at the same site, saying:
“Design science [sic, presumptuousness regarding Intelligent Design “theory”] is at the forefront of research on the emergence of coronavirus. Based on the available evidence and using the [just one?] inference to design [sic, IDism language, rather than that of “real design theory” by non-ID theorists] as a scientific hypothesis, intelligent design of the COVID-19 virus seems unlikely.” – Michael Egnor (31-03-2020,
So we seem to now have a contradiction within the “little tent” of the shrinking IDM when it comes to their IDism/IDT. Is covid-19 “designed” or not?
What Egnor means above when he writes “intelligent design of COVID-19 virus seems unlikely” is clearly that he believes covid-19 was not made by human beings, that it wasn’t manufactured as a biological weapon. There’s really no need to use “design” language, however, when the usage clearly indicates Egnor’s intended meaning that covid-19 was not manufactured in a laboratory, e.g. in Wuhan, China or, perhaps even by accident in Frederick, Maryland, USA. In short, Behe & Egnor are speaking about two different things, yet doing so using the exact same language: “intelligent design” (always non-capitalized according to unspoken PR rules of the DI). This double-talking with terms is either unintentionally or intentionally confusing and serves to muddy the communicative waters, if not also while displaying a level of deviousness and duplicity that this pair of Roman Catholic scientists should not now be engaging, if they were wiser than merely “scientists”.
A third, more recent article on the Evolution News & Views closed-comment site run by the DI, without naming the author(s), says this:
“The design filter [i.e. Dembski’s model] does not concern itself with the purpose of a design, whether for good or bad, but just whether a purpose exists. OK. So it seems that viruses are intelligently designed.” – anonymous IDist(s) (01-04-2020, https://evolutionnews.org/2020/04/viruses-an-intelligent-design-perspective/)
Goodness, now we have another flip-flop in just a couple of weeks!
To summarize, according to the most visible IDist, Senior Fellow of the DI, Michael Behe, who is definitely “not a philosopher,” covid-19 *is* “intelligently designed” (insert ideological reason, meant to look as if it is “strictly scientific”). Then another DI Senior Fellow, Michael Egnor, claims covid-19 *is not* “intelligently designed”, while abusing the term “design science”, and trying to pretend that IDists are “design scientists”, yet without acknowledging a HUGE amount of real design theory, design thinkers, and design theorists who both do “design science” (most of them/us don’t call it a “science”, for obvious reasons) and at the same time reject IDT. Then, for damage control or filibustering over definitions, (an) anonymous voice(s) for the DI & IDM, changes the message again, suggesting that covid-19, like all viruses, is “intelligently designed”. How to parse this semantic mess?
What can one conclude except for that these Senior Fellows of the DI & prominent leaders of the IDM are both quite amazingly, astonishingly, and at the end of the day, most sadly, perhaps even dangerously confused? It is utterly baffling how people could take the DI or IDM seriously after this cover-up mess of semantic slight of hand and trickery. Are they simply naive or blind to their own double-talking, or are they really suggesting that we should follow their lead and enter a discussion about “the purpose of covid-19”?! If the latter, then that surely wouldn’t be a “strictly scientific” conversation or “theory” anymore.
Let me assure the balanced and patient reader that I really do wish to treat the DI and IDM fairly, and at the same time to gently offer correction and a better way forward, if they are willing to pause and listen to others. It is simply difficult to do this, however, given what I’ve witnessed in their communications strategy, and how they have responded to both atheistic and theistic scientists with dismissal and feigned impunity over the years. Again, let’s leave aside the morality of the “good” or “bad” involved with the covid-19 virus (or viruses) for the moment, which in this case has to do mainly with the private (-> movement-centric) theologies of Behe and Egnor. They could indeed be devout, simple, honest men of faith when not peddling IDism, for all we know. Yet their claims about IDT, and awkwardly in the name of “ID”, are patently ludicrous, no question about it.
That said, should anyone actually defending IDT and the IDM (EricMH, looking at you here, as well as johnnyb, recently thread author & IDist, since both of you are “Fellows” at the Bradley Center https://centerforintelligence.org/about/staff-and-fellows/) wish to argue with me that this is too strong or pointed of a rebuke, or that it is unfair, or even somehow morally wrong to protest against the DI’s now obvious and repeated double-talking communications strategy this way, please pause to consider this: in responding openly to the confusion displayed above, I’m not a “Darwinist”, and do not wish to promote “Darwinism” or “neo-Darwinism.” That is, I’m not the specific type of “opponent” that the DI and IDM are reserving their most stringent criticism for. Instead, I’m an Abrahamic monotheist who is simply sick and tired of the DI and IDM miring “good theology” in their “junk science” with theologically disturbing undertones. Will any serious proponent of ID THEORY respond to this without evasiveness or jiggery-pokery?
Yet, wait, let me demonstrate caution, in case what is above suggests to some people otherwise. What if there actually are IDists who in their hearts and minds don’t think (read: don’t wish for any possible reason to accept) that IDT is already well-established as “junk science”, but wish, immediately upon hearing this rebuke, instead to turn and accuse others, particularly biologists, labelling them as “(neo-)Darwinists”, of “junk science”, like a vicious cycle of co-accusation that most of the rest of us “normal people” want no part of? Let me give credit where it is due, as at least this is one thing Egnor got right; he was speaking recently about “textbook politicized junk science — the perversion of science to accomplish political ends”. Unfortunately for him, it is IDism from the DI and IDM that are (also) promoting this, just as much as, if not more than their wily, small in number, largely strawperson “Darwinist” (read: contemporary scientist across the “faith spectrum” who critically accepts the biological “modern evolutionary synthesis”) opponents. (https://evolutionnews.org/2020/03/are-evangelicals-crippling-coronavirus-response/)
To conclude, there is no need to speak about the moral qualities of Senior Fellows at the DI or IDists, members of the IDM. One may even without this dimension involved, faithfully critique either their “theory” or strategic approach to “dialogue”, including their linguistic choice that continually flip-flops from “Divine Design” to “human design” and back again, over and over. Ideological evolutionism will surely not ever be taken down by such slippery arguments as those that have come out of the DI and IDM, by people who sadly don’t appear to love wisdom of clarity in communication, i.e. anti-philosophers like Drs. Behe and Egnor. Isn’t it finally time for these IDists to fold their hand and walk away from the table, ashamed at how they have bluffed and played their own linguistic cards over the years, taking responsibility upon themselves for the perhaps unintended, though nevertheless real divisions in society and culture that they have fuelled?