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Mike Behe talks about Kenneth Miller’s book

From Mike Behe’s Amazon blog an article on Kenneth Miller’s book Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul

Once More With Feeling
11:11 AM PDT, June 16, 2008

Dear Readers,
Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, has written a new book Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, in which he defends Darwinism, attacks intelligent design, and makes a case for theistic evolution (defined as something like “God used Darwinian evolution to make life”). In all this, it’s pretty much a re-run of his previous book published over a decade ago, Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution. So if you read that book, you’ll have a very good idea of what 90% of the new book concerns. For people who think that a mousetrap is not irreducibly complex because parts of it can be used as a paperweight or tie clip, and so would be easy to evolve by chance, Miller is their man. Despite the doubts of many — perhaps most — evolutionary biologists of the power of the Darwinian mechanism, to Miller’s easy imagination evolving any complex system by chance plus selection is a piece of cake, and intermediates are to be found behind every door. A purer devotee of Darwinian wishful thinking would be hard to find.

A few events of the last ten years seem to have caught his attention. He discusses The Edge of Evolution for several pages, reprising his superficial review for Nature that I critiqued on this site last year. At a number of points he lovingly quotes Dover trial Judge John Jones, either not recognizing or purposely ignoring the fact that Jones’ opinion was pretty much copied word for word from a document given to him by the plaintiff’s attorneys; there’s no evidence that Jones comprehended any of the expert testimony at the trial — even Miller’s own testimony. Miller even quotes the passage from “Jones”’ opinion which blatantly mischaracterized my testimony, placing in my mouth words that the plaintiff’s attorney had actually spoken. But even that has been gone over many times; if you read the newspaper and some blogs, all this is very old hat.

The theistic evolution is the same too. (I have nothing against theistic evolution — I used to agree with it — except now I think it doesn’t fit the data.) We live in a finely tuned universe, so that points to God. Miller pointedly denies that that is a scientific argument, but it’s hard to see why not. How many other theological or philosophical arguments depend on the exact values of physical constants — to many significant figures — such as the charge on the electron, the strength of gravity, and so on? Reasoning based on quantitative, precise measurements of nature is science. Ironically, Miller is an intelligent design proponent when it comes to cosmology, but is contemptuous of people who see design extending further into nature than he does.

The only “new” argument in the book is Miller’s complaint that his intellectual opponents are threatening America and civilization, and so must be stopped for the good of the country. (Now, how many times have you heard a politician or special pleader use that line?) America is a science-based society, you see, so we should all bow when the National Academy of Sciences speaks — anything less is un-American.

Well, it seems to me that a country which places control of the military in civilian hands is a country which recognizes that experts, like other people, can be blinded by their biases. If control of the military is too important to be left to the experts, control of education is, too. Even to experts who are as sure of themselves as Kenneth Miller is.

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7 Responses to Mike Behe talks about Kenneth Miller’s book

  1. Twelve years ago, Miller took part in a debate with Behe, along with a number of other major players on the subject of intlligent design. At a critical moment, he brought out a mousetrap with a replaced part, released the spring, and celebrated triumphantly when he and the audience heard it snap.

    Incredibly, he thought that he had proven something, as if his demonstration refuted Behe’s theory of “irreducible complexity.” Behe calmy reminded him that changing the pieces in the mousetrap does not alter that fact that it still needs five parts to function.

    I was left wondering about two things: [A} How could Miller be so insufferably confident and so hopelessly confused at the same time? and [B} How can he not be embarrased about it?

    Now I have a third question. Has anything changed at all?

  2. Say what? “Battle for America’s soul”? If Darwin was right, there is no such thing as a soul. There is nothing but matter.

    The rhetoric of Miller, Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. is beginning to exhibit rear-guard syndrome. Stragglers of a great movement, they have succumbed to a false sense of security and feel free to abandon reason and wallow in pieties and platitudes, blissfully unaware that the glory has departed.

    They stand on the shoulders of giants and forget to be circumspect about themselves. A note of heroic grandeur creeps into self-description; biologists become saviors and bone hunters dabble in philosophy. They are not merely defending a scientific theory—not in their own minds. No, they are battling for the very soul of a nation.

    Meanwhile basic science continues to march along, merrily obliterating the tenets of Darwinism one by one with each new discovery. The stories supporting the old order grow more and more elaborate as the gap between theory and observation widens. And the more elaborate they become, the more resistance they encounter.

    Dear Ken—sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the battle is already lost. Darwinism is fading from the popular imagination, never to be revived again. But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not because you are a bad man. It’s because, like Hector, you lent your considerable talents to a bad cause.

  3. 3

    To me the best part is where Behe slams Judge “Jackass” Jones.

  4. ” Kenneth R. Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, has written a new book Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul, in which he defends Darwinism, attacks intelligent design, and makes a case for theistic evolution (defined as something like “God used Darwinian evolution to make life”).”

    Haven’t read it yet, altho I have a copy sitting here, and I just may read it and review it on amazon.com. Glancing at it, I’d give it maybe three stars at best, but at least 5 paragraphs on the two to three ‘negative’ stars, and why the book lacks an honest appeal to reason. Alluding to theistic evolution supposedly lets the materialist scientist off the hook with regard to hard atheism, but not really.

    Rather than pre-wound, the creative process appears incremental, same as we do it. Does that make the Creator inept? Not at all. Rather than ‘poof’ creation, or having set the stage and left the theater, biogenesis appears to be a quest, an adventure, and an interactive one at that. There isn’t a person reading this that doesn’t have links to the other side, and perhaps some unseen help is their own personal adventure in ‘theme park earth’. But I digress. Philosophical thoughts aside, the evidence of design trumps skepticism, and rather than dying, it’s enjoying new life.

    StevenB:

    ” Twelve years ago, Miller took part in a debate with Behe … At a critical moment, he brought out a mousetrap with a replaced part … Incredibly, he thought that he had proven something … Behe calmly reminded him that changing the pieces in the mousetrap does not alter that fact that it still needs five parts to function.”

    I was left wondering about two things: [A] How could Miller be so insufferably confident and so hopelessly confused at the same time? and [B] How can he not be embarrassed about it?”

    Speaking of that kind of arrogance, has everyone seen last nite’s Colbert Report yet? If not, go here and click on episode 04079.
    http://www.comedycentral.com/s.....ndex.jhtml

    It’s not often you see Colbert upstaged on his own stage. On the other hand, Comedy Central is the perfect venue for Ken. I feel that StevenB’s observation perfectly fits last nite’s performance. Both confident and confused, perhaps. But embarrassed? Not Ken.

    Allanius:

    ” The rhetoric of Miller, Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. is beginning to exhibit rear-guard syndrome. Stragglers of a great movement, they have succumbed to a false sense of security and feel free to abandon reason and wallow in pieties and platitudes, blissfully unaware that the glory has departed.

    [...]

    Dear Ken—sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the battle is already lost. Darwinism is fading from the popular imagination, never to be revived again. But don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not because you are a bad man. It’s because, like Hector, you lent your considerable talents to a bad cause.”

    I would disagree that it’s almost over, or that it was really a bad cause, just that the aggregating evidence of complexity simply cannot be ignored. The thing the bothers me the most is science’s stubborn adherence to a flawed theory, and their fascist means to defend it. I feel that the new crop of scientists will take a slightly different direction. We’ll see.

  5. I hope Behe gets with the DI and does a pod cast on the specifics of Miller’s book and verbally responds to Miller’s constant trashing of his last book “Edge of Evolution.”

  6. Dave, In Mozilla Firefoz 3.0, the fonts on this website are all screwed — e.g. all about 7pt, tiny. Not good :-(

  7. 7

    Mike Behe sums up Ken Miller’s theistic evolution as something like

    “God used Darwinian evolution to make life”

    While I fully agree that there is not much more to Ken Miller, and I also believe that ID is needed to account for IC, Behe seems to ignore that at least a completely different model form his Intelligent Agent “tweaking” nature here and there is possible and discussed: Front-loading (see, for instance Mike Gene’s article Abundant Traces of Front-Loading of 2002, and, more in general, the Archive for the ‘Front-loading’ Category at Telic Thoughts

    I wold be interested in the opinion of others on

    “Intelligent tweaking” vs Front-loading

    Maybe even of Mike Behe himself … if it not too much to ask.

    Let me just add that, while I personally prefer “Intelligent tweaking”(mainly for theological reasons), it can be shown that Front-loading is much more in line with Augustine of Hippo’s view of Creation.

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