Truth or Dare with Dr. Ken Miller: A Lecture Guide to the Anti-Intelligent Design Claims by Dr. Kenneth Miller
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Links to our 7-Part Series Responding to Ken Miller:
• Part 1 (This Article): Science and Religion: Is Evolution “Random and Undirected”?
Brown University biologist Dr. Kenneth Miller is the kind of person you naturally want to believe. He has a charismatic personality and a fast-paced, upbeat, and energetic lecture style. On top of all that, he coaches softball, rides horses, and comes off as an all-around nice guy. If you’re in college, Professor Miller makes you wish you’d taken him for introductory biology rather than the boring prof you probably were stuck with. If you’re out of college, he might even make you fondly recall undergraduate courses when learning from a capable professor engaged your mind.
While these qualities make for an enjoyable lecture, they have no bearing on whether or not the arguments and assertions of Dr. Miller are factually correct and true. Those familiar with Dr. Miller know that he regularly uses the same arguments against intelligent design (ID) when he lectures, and unfortunately, his arguments are not only weak, but they are rife with misrepresentations of ID.
Dr. Miller has been informed about many of these errors before, which makes it unfortunate that he continues to promote them. The purpose of this Guide is to help you understand, navigate, and critically evaluate common claims in anti-ID lectures by Ken Miller. Whatever opinion you come to hold, don’t let yourself be hoodwinked: check the facts for yourself and dare Dr. Miller to tell the truth about intelligent design.
I. Science and Religion: Is Evolution “Random and Undirected”?
Ken Miller styles himself as a Catholic theistic evolutionist, leading one critic to observe that he is sometimes presented as if any potential conflicts between evolution and religion are “reconciled, as it were, in his person.”1 Dr. Miller has the right to believe whatever he wishes; there is no need or desire to question his personal faith. What we do seek, however, are straight answers from Dr. Miller about inconsistencies in his evolving statements on this topic.
Five editions of Miller’s textbook, Biology, stated that “evolution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected.”2 At the Dover trial, Dr. Miller admitted on cross-examination that this description “requires a conclusion about meaning and purpose that I think is beyond the realm of science.”3
Why did this language appear in his book? When pressed, Miller has offered two suspect explanations: He testified he “immediately took it out of the book” after the third edition, even though the language actually remained for all five editions.2 Dr. Miller may legitimately blame this mistake on a memory lapse, but there is more.
Dr. Miller also tried to blame this language on his co-author, Joseph Levine, stating that “this was a statement that Joe inserted.”4 This sounds plausible, until we read in Miller’s own book Finding Darwin’s God (no co-author to blame here) identical language to describe neo-Darwinian evolution:
- “random, undirected process of mutation had produced the ‘right’ kind of variation for natural selection to act upon” (p. 51)
- “a random, undirected process like evolution” (p. 102)
- “blind, random, undirected evolution [could] have produced such an intricate set of structures and organs, so brilliantly dedicated to a single purpose” (p. 137)
- “the random, undirected processes of mutation and natural selection” (p. 145)
- “Evolution is a natural process, and natural processes are undirected” (p. 244)
|A. Truth or Dare: How can Dr. Miller blame the “evolution works without either plan or purpose … Evolution is random and undirected” language on his co-author Levine when his own book contains nearly identical language? More importantly, how does Miller reconcile the view that evolution is “random,” “blind,” “undirected” and “works without either plan or purpose” with theism? Is Dr. Miller an “open theist,” where God isn’t truly omniscient or omnipotent and cannot know the outcome of evolution? Dr. Miller has every right to believe as he wishes, but if so, does this place Miller within Catholic orthodoxy?|
Finally, both the 1991 and 1994 editions of Miller & Levine’s Biology: The Living Science left readers with a striking passage on the implications of evolution: “Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless–a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us.”5 Ask Dr. Miller to explain this one, too.
[1.] Josh Gilder, “There is no religious bias in the PBS Evolution Project because Ken Miller says there isn’t”
[2.] Kenneth Miller and Joseph Levine, Biology (1st ed., 1991), p. 658; (2nd ed., 1993), p. 658; (3rd ed., 1995), p. 658; (4th ed., 1998), p. 658; (5th ed. 2000), p. 658. For details, see Ken Miller’s “Random and Undirected” Testimony
[3.] Day 2 AM Testimony, p. 4.
[4.] Day 2 AM Testimony, p. 7.
[5.] Joseph Levine & Kenneth Miller, Biology: Discovering Life (1st ed., D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; (2nd ed. D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161. Emphasis in original.