Home » Darwinism, Evolution, Intelligent Design » Open Letter by Kenneth Miller

Open Letter by Kenneth Miller

From: Kenneth Miller [mailto:[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, September 28, 2005 2:17 PM
Subject: Re: Some other questions…

Dear Friend,

You are one of scores of people who have written messages to me as a result of my scientific testimony at trial in Harrisburg, PA. I hope you will forgive the fact that I cannot possibly reply to each of you individually. While I appreciate your comments and respect you right to hold views with which I disagree, I thought it might be helpful to make a few things clear.

1) The scientific case for evolution is, indeed, overwhelming, and at the trial I gave several hours of detailed testimony documenting that fact. You are, of course, welcome to claim that there is “not a shred” of evidence for evolution. But had you been present in the courtroom, I suspect you would not make that statement.

2) Many of you accused me of “mocking God” for pointing out that remarkable frequency of extinction would make an “intelligent designer” look ridiculous. In fact, it was exactly because I do not mock God that I pointed out how ridiculous this view of an “intelligent designer” would be. It is those who advance the opposite view, in favor of ID, who must actually argue that the “designer” isn’t competent enough to make organisms that would last.

3) While I would love to discuss the details of your own, individual view of ID or evolution, I simply don’t have the time right now to engage in a detailed e-mail discussion of such issues with (literally) nearly a hundred people. Sorry, but I just cannot do it.

3) No, I do not serve as an expert witness just to “pick up a few extra bucks.” I receive no compensation at all for my testimony. Not a penny.

4) Many of you expressed a determination to pray for my soul. I am grateful for that, and send my sincere thinks. I will remember each of you in my own prayers at mass on Sunday.

5) The most common sentiment expressed in your messages was that it was blasphemous, insulting, or scientifically absurd to suggest that our species shares a common ancestor with chimpanzees or other primates. You are welcome to all such views. However, before claiming that you have science on your side, I would strongly suggest that you visit a library to read the September 1, 2005 issue of NATURE magazine. The complete DNA sequence of the chimpanzee genome was presented and discussed in several articles in that issue. I would urge you to read through all of them before you conclude that the idea is “absurd.” Please do read Hillier et al (2005) Nature 437, 69-87. I quote from the first paragraph of that paper:

“More than a century ago Darwin and Huxley posited that humans share recent common ancestors with the African great apes. Modern molecular studies have spectacularly confirmed this prediction and have refined the relationships, showing that the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and bonobo (Pan paniscus or pygmy chimpanzee) are our closest living evolutionary relatives.”

I think that speaks for itself.

In peace and with best wishes,

Kenneth Miller


Kenneth R. Miller
Professor of Biology
Box G-B5
Brown University
Providence, RI 02912

http://bms.brown.edu/faculty/m/kmiller/

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

31 Responses to Open Letter by Kenneth Miller

  1. Regarding the homology he speaks of:

    http://www.ideacenter.org/cont.....php/id/846

  2. the idea that more shared dna means common ancestors is silly. anyone with any sense knows that a designer would design the closest body types to share the most dna- considering that the dna tells the body how to form and where parts go.

    all cars have similar parts, but they come from many different sources, made by many different companies…a lawnmower has a motor that runs on gasoline like a car, so we should come to the conclusion that a lawn mower is almost a car because it shares a number of traits.

    its close minded to say- these two life forms share this amount of dna, so they must be related by common ancestry, when the same facts can be seen without the mud to man presupposition and you can easily conclude that any reasonable designer would use similar dna to make similar body parts and those beings that had the most similar bady types, form, shapes, etc. would have the more closely shared dna.

    and he shows a complete lack of sense when it comes to a designger (which is seems to propose as god)- i assume he doesnt know much about theology if he complains that no sane designer would make extinction and such. even in terms of actual human design, things have gone out of fashion…we no longer use many manmade inventions. does that mean they werent designed because we no longer use them? shall we return to using steamboats instead of modern day ships? were steamboats not truly designed because theyre “extinct”?

  3. We now have to account how there were changes in upwards of 100 million base pairs in just 6 million years. Given birth rates, there are about 600,000 generations to work with. Given mutation rates, this permits only about a .6% change in DNA. Yet the supposed difference between humans and chimps is nearly 7 times that amount (i.e. 4.0%). Additionally, this calculation assumes that every mutation gets fixed into the population.

    It’s also important to note that there is shared DNA with animals which according to common descent, there shouldn’t be.

    Common design is a better explanation.

  4. He says the evidence for evolution is overwhelming. What evidence is there for such a statement? I really don’t care if the darwinists win in Pa. That Dover school incurred this event upon themselves. However, the evidence for design is growing. More systematic ways of discerning design is too!

  5. Just yesterday, I heard Dawkins claim on PBS that the molecular genome shows evidence for common ancestry between whales and hippos. Although the fossil evidence doesn’t help, we know that molecular evidence does!

  6. im not much familiar with the divergence of plants from animals. ive heard there are theories that life arise from non-life at least twice or maybe more than twice.

    but i just read that humans and some plants share 20% of their dna. that points to common design to me.

    then you have the evolution of sex. which no one can answer. its a terrible idea for the so-called “selfish dna” and it causes all sorts of problems with only half the genese passed on. i only bring that up because i watched a show last on the “anatomy of sex” and they spoke of evolution (the woman claimed that the only purpose humans serve in the universe is to have sex and have kids- but what of those humans who never choose to have kids? are they defunt somehow? theyre not meeting their destiny and purpose in the universe according to this neo-darwinist. also- if you notice the female and male bodies- during sex, everything fits into the other perfectly- the female canal is designed to have the mans body inserted directly into it, curving into the canal…its as if the two people become one body they fit together so perfectly- that would have had to evolve seperately between both sexes.

    not to mention that each animal on earth (when sex started) would have had to seperately evolve into male and female for any population to survive.

    sort of got off topic there, but oh well. :)

    there are just major problems with ape to man (not enough generations, mutation rates could not be that high to garner a 4% different, etc) and that made me think of sex which isa huge problem for the theory.

  7. I recommend that Ken Miller read Who Was Adam by Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana. They completely debunk the evothiestic myth laid out in Nature. The Nature article does speak for itself Ken, an athiestic, evolutionary thinktank.

    Why is the extinction of species so terrible and show that it is insulting to posit an intelligent designer. The comment is just silly and totally unscientific. Lets say that we had an intelligent designer that like to create and had good reasons for destroying or building so they would eventually die. Perhaps this world is simply a dream in the intellignet designers mind and he became bored of his dream. Perhaps there was a very good purpose for the species being created and dying out. The point is that your objection to an intelligent designer is completely unscientific and driven by your worldview.

    I think it is unfair to accuse you of mocking God. I think that you completely misunderstand God or try to make sense of what is unknowable and unseeable.

    Dan

  8. A nobel prize winner once said, “You can believe in evolution, just don’t blame God for it.”

    It’s terribly cruel and inneficient.

  9. Designers are known for making and destroying? Hey Jboze3131, tell me about the evolution of mammals, reptiles and whales. Are there good evidences for these?

  10. Well…to be fair naturalists are emphasizing the similarities while everyone else is focusing on the huge differences. The data stays the same but the interpretations vary wildly.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....7047a.html

    “Comparing the genetic code of humans and chimps will allow us to comb through each gene or regulatory region to find single changes that might have made a difference in evolution,” they say, but remind us that the oft-quoted 96%-similar-gene figure between chimps and humans must be seen in context: “At a conservative estimate we share about 88% of our genes with rodents and 60% with chickens. Applying a more liberal definition of similarity, up to 80% of the sea-squirt’s genes are found in humans in some form. So it’s no surprise that we are still asking, ‘What makes us human?’”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....7050a.html

    “The question of what genetic changes make us human is far more complex. Although the two genomes are very similar, there are about 35 million nucleotide differences, 5 million indels and many chromosomal rearrangements to take into account. Most of these changes will have no significant biological effect, so identification of the genomic differences underlying such characteristics of ‘humanness’ as large cranial capacity, bipedalism and advanced brain development remains a daunting task.”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....04000.html

    A third of apparent segmental duplications in the human genome (defined by more than 94% sequence identity) are not found in the chimp genome. This team compared the two genomes, and figured that this required a duplication rate of 4 to 5 million bases per million years since humans and chimps parted evolutionary ways. Most of the changes, surprisingly, deal with chromosome structure. No clear picture emerges for how or why these differences arose: “It is unknown whether slow rates of deletion, high rates of duplication or gene conversion are largely responsible for the evolutionary maintenance of these duplicates.” A surprising conclusion is that “when compared to single-base-pair differences, which account for 1.2% genetic difference, base per base, large segmental duplication events have had a greater impact (2.7%) in altering the genomic landscape of these two species.”

    A couple points to keep in mind:

    Epigenetics: Genes cannot be telling the whole story. There’s a lot more going on to make us human than just genes. If two mice species that look similar have just as much genetic difference (4%) as humans and chimps, and if dogs, from great danes to chihuahuas, have far less genetic difference (0.15%), then clearly phenotypic difference (outward appearance) is not a linear function of genotypic distance. Just look into the research being done on mRNA and all the “junk” DNA. After all, those systems control the expression of genes. You have to look at the entirety of the system and not just a section. It’s almost like if I were to look at someone’s source code and try to figure it how it works by focusing in on the variables and ignoring the majority of the functions. Though some scientists might find this comparison insulting, I liken geneticists to the “script-kiddies” of software engineering since they modify already functioning code without knowing what they’re doing in order to discover how it works.

    Inconsequential Differences: Why should genes differ so widely that are only concerned with chromosome structure? Why should there be so many segmented duplication differences, and “neutral” differences? Naturalists wanted to find clear evidence of positive selection leading to upright posture, language and culture. Although such studies are just beginning, they only have a paltry few to suggest so far, and those are ambiguous.

    Phenotypic Revolutions: Humans exhibit several profound anatomical differences shared by no other primate: upright posture, ability to do long-distance running, naked skin with thermoregulatory function, prolonged maturation, vocal apparatus suited for language, a very large brain relative to body size, and much more. Could this much interrelated change occur by undirected, accidental mutations over a few “short” millions of years? Where is the evidence for strong positive selection in the DNA?

    http://alangrey.blogspot.com/2.....enced.html

    “Another interesting thing to note. Despite the similarities in human and chimp genomes, the scientists identified some 40 million differences among the three billion DNA molecules, or nucleotides, in each genome.

    Since we apparently diverged from a common ancestor 6 million years ago, that is roughly 6.6 mutations per year that get fixed within the genome (or 3.3 per year if you divide them equally amongst the 2 branching species). Given a conservative estimate of average generational time of 10 years, this means that 33 new mutations had to be fixed within the population every generation.

    This seems fairly high to me. The current human mutation rate is around 3 or 4 mutations per organism. It becomes a very messy math exercise to test whether this rate is even possible, but you can be sure of one thing – the evolutionists won’t bother studying this scientific question unless they are pushed by those anti-science creationists who want to stop all science being done.

    Update: Most of the news articles I read state the size of the chimp genome at 3 billion base pairs (BP) (the same number as humans are reported to have), yet checking into the actual values of the two species makes this claim of equal sized genomes as false. The human genome (homo sapiens) has a CV of 3.5, which equates to roughly 3.423 Billion BP. The chimp genome (pan troglodytes) has a CV of 3.76, which equates to roughly 3.6773 Billion BP. (although there is a range of CV figures from 3.63 to 3.85 – this range equates to 3.55 billion BP to 3.77 billion BP)

    So at the outset, the chimpanzee genome has 250 (or taking the lowest of the range 122) MILLION additional base pairs over the human genome. So why is the difference only reported only 40 million? It seems the difference MUST be a lot higher than commonly referred to. This would also make the required mutation rate about 3 to 6 times higher as well.”

  11. no one is saying designers are known for making and destroying in that sense, and thats not what miller is claiming. things have been invented that are no longer used. certain things that have been designed are now worthless. how would extinction show bad design? it only shows bad design if everything is designed PERFECTLY. man doesnt design anything perfectly. why would god? in regards to theology- the major religions make total sense out of imperfection. the 3 major religions have ‘the fall’ and that makes sense of what we see.

    extinction is only impossible with a perfect design from a designer who made all things perfection- which would be the end to free will, because man can choose to destroy or to build up.

    it doesnt matter either way- hes getting into theology and hes clearly not capable of getting into that subject, because he hasnt a clue in that regard.

  12. What about my second question regarding whale, reptile and mammal evolution?

  13. Why not discuss the new data from the sequencing of the chimpanzee genome instead of rehashing old arguments?

  14. i dont think theres anything new with the chimp geonome. they always said it was 2% difference, now it turns out its closer to 4% difference…when taking into consideration other factors, the true difference might be higher.

    you canlook at that and interpret it either way. a designer would have used the most shared amt of dna in the most similar body types. so when miller says that proves one, you can look at it and see it completely different and still be just as right.

    i dont think theres good evidence that any form changed into anything new. weve never documented it in nature, weve never been able to get anywhere near accomplishing it in the lab even when we drastically speed up mutation rates. there always seem to be boundaries that limit changes from bringing forth new forms. dogs for example, as someone mentioned- thousands of yrs of breeding and still weve got nothing but dogs. bacteria mutations sped up in the lab, equal to millions of yrs of evolution- still bacteria with no new forms, no new nothing- just bacteria that are slightly different. if man cant bridge that limit to change, its hard to argue that M+NS can do so. esp when, in nature, weve seen that NS does very little according to many neo-darwinists themselves.

  15. Is Miller stupid or dishonest? Surely he knows that Judeo-Christian theology explains the imperfect world by the fall from grace (original sin, Adam & Eve ejected from Eden). That only leaves dishonesty. Miller’s a liar.

  16. I’m feeling… pragmatic today. And maybe a little miffed at my Christian community. My heart goes out to Prof. Miller. I sense he is a good man who has just not seen enough data yet and has not had the opportunity to noodle it free of religious critique. Perhaps if “we” stop throwing theistic darts intended to prick emotional response and simply provide data this will change. If there is anything I’ve learned over the years it is this: When dealing with “big brain” types it is always better to listen a lot, disagree a little, and provide overwhelming quantities of cold, hard, unemotional data.

    On the pragmatic side… any theist can tell you that God created everything for a purpose and that humankind is made in his image (meaning spiritually of course) for a reason. Knowing that He was preparing a temporary home for an agressive and creative being, wouldn’t it make sense to take a few billion years to do it right? Lay down layer upon layer of geology interspersed with innumerable life forms. Perhaps design them to change over time in order to fill in the unique requirements that would be needed millions of years in the future. Make little microorganisms that can do seemingly infinate work over time ending with a transformed environment suitable for us and our cousins. Make huge animals and plants whose sole purpose is to spread biomass throughout the planet and create a storehouse of energy that would be needed to get Jed Clampet and family to Beverly Hills. And do it all just so we can have the thrill of figuring out how it all happened and how it all works. Oh, and don’t get me started on the vast expanse of the Universe begging for discovery. If I were the all-knowing creator of the universe and wanted to make it interesting for my pride and joy, I would make it exactly the way it is today – with billions of years of discovery to be had, extinctions and all. Frankly, I’m glad the Dinosaurs are gone – and I’m glad they served their purpose.

    The thing that really kills me about this argument is how futile it really is for some people. “Quod volumus, facile credimus.” People readily believe what they want to believe. For some, even if the data points squarly to ID, they will choose Darwin. Our task for the sake of our progeny is to make sure everyone has the data. That’s why I strongly support this and similar web sites.

    And don’t forget… whatever the outcome, there is always the Anthropic Principle (which does not apply to my spelling, so forgive errors that I didn’t have time to catch in my spell checker).

  17. I think he misses the point as he tries to use the similarity of DNA as evidence over ID, yet I think similar DNA is far more pro ID than anything. I am sure Ken knows that that is not evidence of evolution over ID, but I bet that he knows that the public probably won’t see it that way if he presents it as it suits him. But why all this talk about chimps? lets talk about other relatives… they are feeling rather left out of this whole discussion. http://www.belleville.com/mld/.....tstory.jsp

  18. On the amount of “difference” between human and chimp DNA, the metric is crude and I can’t really find where they arrived at the 4% number. We have but a bare inkling of “position effect” in genomes thus the effect of chromosomal rearrangements (which is really what causes speciation not single base changes) is an unknown.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/j.....890DC81456

    Nucleotide divergence rates are not constant across the genome, as has been seen in comparisons of the human and murid genomes16, 17, 24, 35, 36. The average divergence in 1-Mb segments fluctuates with a standard deviation of 0.25% (coefficient of variation = 0.20), which is much greater than the 0.02% expected assuming a uniform divergence rate (Fig. 1a; see also Supplementary Fig. S1).

    Hey, theory only differed from reality by a factor of 12 here. No big deal… ;-)

  19. “More than a century ago Darwin and Huxley posited that humans share recent common ancestors with the African great apes.” That’s not all they posited which has been proven wrong. “Modern molecular studies have spectacularly confirmed this prediction and have refined the relationships, showing that the common chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) and bonobo (Pan paniscus or pygmy chimpanzee) are our closest living evolutionary relatives.” So Chimps DNA is similimar to Human DNA so what about that 4% difference. That’s 4% must be magic.

  20. [...] Kenneth Miller has published an open letter, which Bill Dembski has put online here. The part that caught my eye was this: Many of you accused me of “mocking God” for pointing out that remarkable frequency of extinction would make an “intelligent designer” look ridiculous. In fact, it was exactly because I do not mock God that I pointed out how ridiculous this view of an “intelligent designer” would be.Now, I wouldn’t accuse Miller of “mocking God”, and whether the frequency of extinction makes an “intelligent designer” look ridiculous is a debate for some other time. I wish simply to examine what Miller is here arguing. This goes beyond simply arguing against the idea that intelligence can be detectable. The implication of the argument (if one accepts it as valid) is that neither evolution itself nor its outcomes were intended in any sense, even indirectly by setting up physical laws to do the job (as Steve pointed out here), because the person intending it wouldn’t be very intelligent for doing it that way. [...]

  21. I wonder if Ken Miller knows about the cambrian explosion, origin of life and the rest of the fossil record. I don’t even know if the darwinists know how to explain away this discrepancy.

  22. “A nobel prize winner once said, “You can believe in evolution, just don’t blame God for it.”
    It’s terribly cruel and inneficient.”

    How would an alternative view that combines both the number of extinctions and the existence of God be less cruel and inefficient?

  23. “man doesnt design anything perfectly. why would god?”

    The reason man doesn’t design most things perfectly is because he is fallible. With God, we have to explain any imperfections by not understanding His motivations.

  24. “It’s also important to note that there is shared DNA with animals which according to common descent, there shouldn’t be.”

    In what way is shared DNA with animals incompatible with common descent? It seems to me the opposite is true.

  25. I’m having a bit of a problem envisioning how a mutation (error) in a species’ genetic sequence can (a) permently make it’s way into the species dna, (b) lead to modified chromosomes, and thus a new species. Can someone point me to a source that includes a probability analysis of each step?

  26. “(a) permently make it’s way into the species dna”

    interbreeding – think of the shampoo commercial where you tell two friends and each of them tells two friends, and so on and so on

    but it isn’t permanent as the mutation will eventually mutate into something different if the species continues long enough

    “(b) lead to modified chromosomes”

    Good question.

    No, scratch that. Utterly fabulous question.

    Chromosomal reorganizations are what really make for different species. These don’t happen by point mutations. They’re big events that necessarily happen, like ALL mutations, in a single individual. This begs the question of how do we get a male and a female (breeding pair) with the new chromosomal organization to continue the new species? Here’s one hypothetical answer. In fact it’s the ONLY plausible hypothetical answer I’ve seen and I did a lot of looking.

    http://www.iscid.org/papers/Da.....050204.pdf

  27. Oops – I thought Instant Evolution was more detailed.

    What I wanted you to read is

    DAVISON, JA (1984) Semi-meiosis as an evolutionary mechanism. J. Theor. Biol., 111:

    but I can’t find a link to it. The following paper at the linked point begins a longish discussion of Davison’s semi-meiotic hypothesis. I highly recommend reading the whole paper.

    http://www.uvm.edu/~jdavison/d.....l#diploidy

  28. By the way, just to stir the pot a little bit, semi-meiotic reproduction may also be called “virgin birth”… ;-)

  29. DaveScot wrote: “This begs the question of how do we get a male and a female (breeding pair) with the new chromosomal organization to continue the new species?”

    You read my mind – that was indeed the question I was begging. And thanks for the references. I can see I am in for some fascinating reading.

    -Doug

  30. This is silly.

    The argument that “anyone with any sense knows that a designer would design the closest body types to share the most dna” is clearly not thinking.

    I sculpt in wood, stone, and butter, and can make a make a human form from each. That is the quality of design.

    Secondly, fish and dolphins share a very similar body shape, but their DNA is far removed (relativelt speaking).

    The argument that chromosones must match up perfectly is also false. Horses and donkeys sometimes produce fertile young. Lions and tigrs always produce fertile females and infertile males. We currently suffer species disappearing through hybridisation. Darwin devoted a chapter to the subject.

    When people say things like “It’s also important to note that there is shared DNA with animals which according to common descent, there shouldn’t be” you wonder if these people expect their chldren to be horses or flies (which according to ID they could be when the mysterious designer acts in his mysterious way in an unknown fashion, etc).

    And “The reason man doesn’t design most things perfectly is because he is fallible. With God, we have to explain any imperfections by not understanding His motivations.”, When i write computer code it is a trade off between time and perfection. I write code that ‘good enough’ because I cannot magic perfection out of thin air. If the designer is god, and lets not pretend about this, then his omniscience and omnipotence are a great deal less than its cracked up to be. Unless, of course, he wants us to suffer….oops, suddenly the god of ID wants suffering. By the way, some of my code is nearly perfect.

    “no one is saying designers are known for making and destroying in that sense, and thats not what miller is claiming. things have been invented that are no longer used. certain things that have been designed are now worthless. how would extinction show bad design? “—what was your god up to with the dinosuars? Didnt he KNOW?

  31. I found that paper and read it last summer. Very glad to have found someone else who read it! A good bit of the biology was over my head.

Leave a Reply