Thursday, May 17, 2007

Miller Puts the Nail in Design's Coffin

Kenneth Miller is a prominent biology professor at Brown University who has become known for his defense of evolution and opposition towards the religious fa├žade promoted by creationism and more recently intelligent design. He gained recent recognition when the school board of Cobb County, Georgia decided to put an evolutionary disclaimer sticker on their biology textbook, which was authored by Miller, stating:
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
This went to court (Selman v. Cobb County School District) and was initially decided in favor of the plaintiffs and against the sticker. It went through appeals but in 2006 was finally settled out of court in favor of the plaintiffs once again. Miller was one of the expert witnesses who presented testimony to the effect of evolution's validity.

Another more recent court case that was settled before Selman was and received national attention was the 2005 decision, Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. This was an attempt by the Dover school board to have teachers incorporate what they called "intelligent design" into the curriculum. Kenneth Miller was the prosecution's lead expert witness in this case. In the end the judge found intelligent design to be nothing more than creationism's offspring and therefore unconstitutional to teach in schools. Taken from the court's decision:
The evidence at trial demonstrates that ID is nothing less than the progeny of creationism. (page 31)

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory. (page 43)

The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy. With that said, we do not question that many of the leading advocates of ID have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors. Nor do we controvert that ID should continue to be studied, debated, and discussed. As stated, our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom. (page 137) [emphasis added]
The reason I mention all this is because I recently came across a lecture Miller gave at Case Western Reserve University a little over a year ago on January 3, 2006. In it, Miller details current evidence to support the theory of evolution. Among such evidence was the recent discovery that the number of human chromosomes (23 pairs) is a result of a pair of ape chromosomes (24 pairs) which had merged together. They were even able to decipher that it was the human chromosome 2 that was the result of the ape merger.

What surprised me in the beginning was how he actually explained that anti-evolutionts were not proponents of science because their foundation is based upon religion. I already knew this fact but what surprised me was that he went on to do what most forget to. He explained what science was and the requirements to test its validity. From his explanation one could then only understand science to be that which studies reality and leaves no room for the supernatural.

Miller goes on to recount his experience refuting intelligent design and the incomprehensibility of their argument. Miller, in essence puts the proverbial nail in the coffin of intelligent design. The lecture is definitely worth watching. The video above is close to two hours but Miller's lecture only comprises the first hour. Miller's lecture is purely a scientific examination on the evidence supporting evolution and so does not get into any philosophic discussion. A caveat of mine as you watch the lecture: The lecture leads off with a prayer asking God to lend his assistance as the attendees discuss the topic of evolution and science in general. Miller also presents himself as a religious scientist. I would advise against making the assumption then that faith and reason were compatible. Miller's personal experience merely represents the partition of the two, to the extent of which he assents, in his cognitive faculty.