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Ken Miller — Ever the Valiant Defender of Science

With Cardinal Schönborn’s NYTimes op-ed last week debunking evolution, dutiful Catholic Darwinists need to do the requisite damage control. Enter the indefatigable Ken Miller: “Knowing how the good Cardinal’s words will be misused by the enemies of science in our country, it is important to set the record straight.” Here is Paul Nelson’s take on Miller’s latest:

The paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson was
famously contemptuous of Christianity: he wrote
derisively of “the higher superstitions celebrated
weekly in every hamlet in the United States.”

Which is why, of course, Simpson is such a reliable
authority on the relationship of science and religion,
as freshly illuminated by Ken Miller:

http://www.millerandlevine.com/km/evol/catholic/op-ed-krm.html

Miller tells Cardinal Schönborn that the latter “erred
dramatically” in his recent NYT op/ed. Simpson
himself, says Miller, taught us that science cannot say
whether there was a plan or purpose to life. Here “faith”
enters, which apparently means for Miller that one
asserts propositions ­– e.g., God designed human beings -­-
with absolutely no empirical content. In principle.

NOMA at work. Science gets the whole of observable
reality; religion takes whatever is left.

One is allowed under NOMA, and Ken Miller’s
epistemology, to say that purpose underlies human
existence, as long as “purpose” is understood to
be void of detectable meaning: a word without
a referent.

Simpson himself couldn’t have been happier!

P.S. Miller writes: “The neo-creationists of intelligent design, unlike Popes Benedict and John Paul, argue against evolution on every level, claiming that a ‘designer’ has repeatedly intervened to directly produce the complex forms of living things.” It is convenient to keep charging ID with being an interventionist theory. The fact is, however, that it is not an interventionist theory — a point I’ve made clear in many of my writings and, specifically, in a response to Miller: http://www.designinference.com/documents/2003.02.Miller_Response.htm. My impression is that Miller long ago stopped reading the ID literature and now merely criticizes the “enemy of science” that he has concocted in his own mind.

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16 Responses to Ken Miller — Ever the Valiant Defender of Science

  1. Heads up:

    Alan Leshner, CEO of AAAS, takes aim at ID in an editorial in next week’s Science.

    His position is that ID is not “SCIENCE.” However, in another article in the same issue about a years-long, still simmering scandal in anthropolgy, “scientists” are quoted as describing “science” as cultural and hegemonic of colonial powers.

    When “scientists” cannot agree on a definition of “science,” (except to say ID is not!) something fishy seems to be going on.

  2. Ken Miller sounds like an atheist when he speaks. Alongside Ruse and Scott, Miller continues to fail to understand ID. His best argument that stands, other than the flagellum argument, is his judgement of ID as being religion. He, like others, haven’t read the arguments from Bill nor Mike. Though, ID is still a young science, granted it has only been around 10 years, many of it’s claims have some potential merit as far as scientific data is concerned.

  3. ID has been criticized by the following:
    Mark Perakh
    Robert Pennock
    Barbara Forrest
    Taner Edis
    Ken Miller
    Niall Shanks

  4. Is Dr. Ken Miller an atheist or a creationist? ID people think he’s being atheistic, while the metaphysical naturalists think he’s a creationist. :-)

    Whether he is an atheist, a creationist, or simply a biologist he certainly knows his science, and in my opinion is representing the Catholic teaching accurately from the International Theological Commission statement (paragraphs 62-70 are key).

    It was the same Cardinal Schonborn, editor of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992, published in English translation in 1994), who wrote these words:

    159. Faith and science: “…methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” [Vatican II GS 36:1]

    283. The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers….

    284. The great interest accorded to these studies is strongly stimulated by a question of another order, which goes beyond the proper domain of the natural sciences. It is not only a question of knowing when and how the universe arose physically, or when man appeared, but rather of discovering the meaning of such an origin….

    According to the Catechism, there is no conflict between honest science and faith because God is the creator, ruler, and sustainer of both: the things of the world and of faith derive from the same God; science has splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age of the cosmos and the development of life; and religion, faith and revelation provide us with the meaning of our origins WHICH IS BEYOND THE PROPER DOMAIN of natural science.

    That’s all Dr. Ken Miller is saying, along with the fact that “even the outcome of a truly contingent natural process can nonetheless fall within God’s providential plan for creation” — direct words from the International Theological Commission statement (paragraph 69), endorsed by the Pope (then Cardinal Ratzinger) last year.

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p80.htm

    I also encourage folks to get Pope Benedict XVI own commentary on Genesis titled “In The Beginning…” published in the 1980s when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. There are statements in there acknowledging both biological evolution and ID (e.g. a “creating Reason and Intelligence” overseeing creation).

    Phil P

  5. That’s great Phil. What are your thoughts on Evo/ID debate?

  6. benji >

    This particular post was about Ken Miller. My thoughts on ID are agnostic. Let the ID people make their case to the scientific community, like evolution has the past 150 years. I accept the overwhelming evidence for biological evolution and “common descent” and that God was behind it. So I am a theistic evolutionist, the same as the Catholic Church as I’ve shown.

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p14.htm

    Phil P

  7. Phil, I admire your conviction on evolution and God. In this day and age, there isn’t much conciliation between them both. However, I would disagree with you, as far as the evidence is concerned. I don’t see God as using an evolutionary process to yield mankind. This is not because of his nature. Rather, the evidence doesn’t point to an evolutionary process,insofar, macroevolution. I would encourage you to keep an open mind on ID. Read the books and analyze them. You’ll be surprised how much you learn. Afterwards, you may draw some rational conclusion.

    Best Wishes,
    Benjii

  8. Ken Miller writes:

    “I see a science that tells us there is indeed a design to life. And the name of that design is evolution.”

    How does science tell us that there is design to life?

    “a continuing creation in which the Divine providence is manifest in every living thing.”

    How is such divine providence manifest? Manifest means ‘Clearly apparent to the sight or understanding’ In other words, divine providence must be at least in principle discoverable, testable. And the name of the theory that holds to the fact that design (or providence) is testable and observable, is intelligent design.

  9. Benji — I don’t see God as using an evolutionary process to yield mankind.

    You would, any other reasonable person would, after carefully reading these books:

    Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by Keith Miller (Eerdmans, 2003)
    Origin of the Human Species by Dennis Bonnette (Sapientia Press, 2003, 2nd edition)
    Adam, Apes, and Anthropology by Glenn R. Morton (DMD Publications, 1997)
    Bones, Stones, and Molecules: “Out of Africa” and Human Origins by David W. Cameron and Colin P. Groves (Elsevier, 2004)
    Where Do We Come From? The Molecular Evidence for Human Descent by Jan Klein and Naoyuki Takahata (Springer, 2002)
    The Human Fossil Record (volume 1, forthcoming in 4 volumes) by Schwartz / Tattersall (John Wiley and Sons, 2002)
    The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey by Spencer Wells (Random House Paperback, 2003)
    Extinct Humans by Ian Tattersall and Jeffrey H. Schwartz (Westview Press / Perseus Books, 2000)
    The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Evolution edited by Steve Jones, Robert Martin, David Pilbeam (Cambridge Univ Press, 1992)
    The Search for Eve by Michael H. Brown (Harper and Row, 1990)
    Guide to Fossil Man by Michael H. Day (Univ of Chicago Press, 1986, 4th edition)
    Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind by Donald C. Johanson and Maitland A. Edey (Simon and Schuster, 1981)

    These are books I own, or have check out of my local university library. The first 3 are from explicitly Christian perspectives. The evidence is there. Looks like God used evolution. ID does not explain the fossil hominids, nor the genetic evidence. If you want to put an ID theory on top of common descent (as Behe does) that’s fine, but it makes no sense to deny the evidence for common descent, including human evolution (which Behe at least, does not). I try to be very open-minded about ID, but I don’t have the ability to understand Dembski’s math. :)

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/p15.htm

    Phil P

  10. Well, you must remember that many books are based on mere conjectures. I would encourage you to read ,http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....hp/id/1146, by Casey Luskin. This should clear some of the confusion. I respect your conclusions, but dig a little deeper.

  11. ID is not creationism in disguise. Unlike creationism, it’s claims are fully supported and can be tested empirically.

  12. Phil P: “If you want to put an ID theory on top of common descent (as Behe does) that’s fine,”

    Then Phil, you disagree with Ken Miller. Miller gives away the store by capitulating a de facto naturalism, something that Schonborn does not do. Miller is just incoherent if he says that evolution “writ large” can be evidence for design but explanations of specific biological phenomena must be restricted to naturalistic explanations a priori. Why allow that we can ascribe design to a macro phenomena like “descent with modification” (an hypothesis, mind you, that virtually the entire scientific community views as purely explainable in naturalistic terms, and in fact is the strongest argument *against* design) but when it comes to the stark appearance of design in an apparent biological machine, such arguments are ruled out of court because of an ad hoc definition of science?

    Miller is in an even stranger, lonelier place than IDers. He’s ceded every last inch of ground to a worldview actively hostile to his own, while defending his faith based on the kind of theory that everyone else sees as purely naturalistic. It’s no wonder he’s so hostile to ID. If ID is correct, then he gave away the store for nothing. And if you’re “keeping an open mind” about ID, Phil, then you’re no friend of Miller

  13. You have a point, Dave.

  14. I don’t really agree Miller gives away the store, especially in regard to ID theory held out by Dembski and Behe. Theistic evolution is compatible with ID.

    Theistic and atheistic evolution both say “mutation plus natural selection” is the primary if not sole mechanism behind evolution. The two part ways when the driver behind the mutations are considered. Atheists say the mutations are random and theists say the mutations are partially or wholly directed by a deity.

    Dembski and Behe’s ID doesn’t attempt to define any particular mechanism behind descent with modification. Neither does it attempt to demonstrate whether or not descent with modification is true or false. All it really does attempt is to examine aspects of biological systems and assign probabilities to their chance occurrence. This is how one reasonably determines whether things are the consequence of chance or design. When the probability of things happening by chance become unreasonably small a reasonable person concludes that chance wasn’t responsible.

    Consider two lottery results to illuminate chance vs. design. Suppose there are ten consecution lotteries each with a 1 in 50 million chance of winning. Only one ticket per person is allowed and one ticket is randomly drawn to win each lottery. If a different unrelated person wins each lottery no one bats an eye as that is what is expected to happen in a random drawing. Now consider an outcome where 10 closely related people from one family win the lotteries. Any reasonable person will be convinced that the game was rigged or, in other words, the outcome was the product of design instead of random chance.

    Dembski and Behe basically are attempting to rigorously define the odds of arbitrary biological changes happening by chance and showing that the odds are unreasonably small for chance being responsible. Ergo, given that the rules of the game are well enough known (a big given), a reasonable person concludes that the evolution game was rigged. *How* it was rigged is a different question and one that Dembski & Behe’s ID theory does not attempt to answer. ID attempts to reasonably identify design but doesn’t identify designers.

  15. That’s where I think you’re wrong, DaveScot. Both atheistic and theistic evolution, hold to the belief that mutations are random, not necessarily directed. Miller, in his book, describes God as a deity who works behind natural laws, such as evolution. Directed evolutionism is quite rare nowadays. Scientists such as Conway Morris and Mike Denton are an exception. However, the field is still under investigation.

  16. It appears that some in the scientific community are paranoid when it comes to ID. Since it’s inception, ID, has enraged many scientists to the point of religious fanaticism. They practically decree a holy war on those who disagree with Darwinism. They search relentlessly, trying to purge the dissidents. Such acts are being made clear to many people. Some scientists claim that ID, as Michael Ruse says, is religion tarted up to look like science. At the same time, Michael Ruse should look inwardly. He knows better than anyone else that naturalism is more akin to a religion than science. Scientific statements from Weinberg, Dawkins, Lewontin, Gould, EO Wilson and so on, justify this claim. In the end, Darwinism will go down in flames as another intolerant and abusive religion.

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