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Coffee!! Darwin-in-the-schools lobby elects self-described creationist as leader

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Kenneth R. Miller One after whom an informal logical fallacy is named, too. From Glenn Branch at National Center for Science Education:

At a recent meeting of NCSE’s board of directors, Kenneth R. Miller was elected as president, replacing Francisco J. Ayala, whose term on the board expired. Miller is Professor of Biology and Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown University; his honors include the AAAS’s Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology as well as NCSE’s Friend of Darwin award. He testified for the plaintiffs in Kitzmiller v. Dover. His books include Finding Darwin’s God (1999) and Only a Theory (2008). More.

A friend wrote to ask, But wait, isn’t Miller a creationist?

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Oh yes, of course, the friend was referring to Miller’s testimony at the Dover trial (2004):

During cross-examination at the Dover Trial, Ken Miller admitted that he is a “creationist” when “creationist” is understood to mean anyone who believes that the universe was created by God. Here’s the exchange:

Q. Sir, in the ordinary meaning of the word a creationist is simply any person who believes in an act of creation, correct?

A. Yes, I think I would also regard that as the ordinary meaning of the word creationist.

Q. And you believe that the universe was created by God?

A. I believe that God is the author of all things seen and unseen. So the answer to that, sir, is yes.

Q. In a sense that would make you a creationist using the definition –

A. In the, as I think you and I discussed during the deposition, in that sense any person who is a theist, any person who accepts a supreme being, is a creationist in the ordinary meaning of the word because they believe in some sort of a creation event.

Q. And that would include yourself?

A. That would certainly include me.

Glad that’s straightened out. But wait, it’s not that simple: Miller does not seem to be a reliable witness as to what he himself has said in the past: Take, for example, his claims about the use of the term “random and undirected” evolution in his textbooks:

On the second day of the Kitzmiller trial, Miller was confronted about theologically charged statements about evolution in one of his biology textbooks, which stated that “[e]volution is random and undirected.” Miller defended himself by claiming that the theological language about evolution in his textbook was a “mistake,” and was added by his co-author, and that the statement “[e]volution is random and undirected” appears only in the 3rd edition of his “elephant textbook,” Biology. Miller said, “that statement was not in the first edition the book, it was not in the second edition, it was not in the fourth edition.” Yet contrary to Miller’s testimony, Miller has produced numerous textbooks which apparently contain anti-theistic language describing evolution. What’s going on here?

The facts are very different from Miller’s testimony. All of the first four editions of his “elephant” Biology textbook contain the phrase “[e]volution is random and undirected.” Moreover, other versions of Miller & Levine textbooks, unmentioned during the testimony, contain language which is even more hostile towards religion than that in the elephant Biology textbook. Two editions of his Biology: Discovering Life state, “Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism.” This contradicts Miller’s testimony that only one of his eleven textbook editions contained anti-religious language. In reality, six of them contain anti-religious language. More. Also here

But then, in post-modern science, facts matter way less than they did in modern science anyway. So possibly NCSE is just adapting to the times.

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Actually, Miller is a sort of icon around here. As Barry Arrington noted, We now have a head of the NCSE who has an actual informal logical fallacy named after him. From the UD glossary on “Miller’s Mendacity”:

Miller’s Mendacity is a particular type of strawman fallacy frequently employed by Darwinists. It invariably consists of the following two steps:1. Erect the strawman: The Darwinist falsely declares that intelligent design is based on the following assertion: If something is improbable it must have been designed.

2. Demolish the strawman: The Darwinist then demonstrates an improbable event that was obviously not designed (such as dealing a particular hand of cards from a randomized deck), and declares “ID is demolished because I have just demonstrated an extremely improbable event that was obviously not designed.”

Miller’s Mendacity is named for Brown University biochemist Ken Miller and is based on his statements in an interview with the BBC:

BBC Commenter: In two days of testimony [at the Dover trial] Miller attempted to knock down the arguments for intelligent design one by one. Also on his [i.e., Miller’s] hit list, Dembski’s criticism of evolution, that it was simply too improbable.

Miller: One of the mathematical tricks employed by intelligent design involves taking the present day situation and calculating probabilities that the present would have appeared randomly from events in the past. And the best example I can give is to sit down with four friends, shuffle a deck of 52 cards, and deal them out and keep an exact record of the order in which the cards were dealt. We can then look back and say ‘my goodness, how improbable this is. We can play cards for the rest of our lives and we would never ever deal the cards out in this exact same fashion.’ You know what; that’s absolutely correct. Nonetheless, you dealt them out and nonetheless you got the hand that you did.

BBC Commentator: For Miller, Dembski’s math did not add up. The chances of life evolving just like the chance of getting a particular hand of cards could not be calculated backwards. By doing so the odds were unfairly stacked. Played that way, cards and life would always appear impossible.

In a letter to Panda’s Thumb Miller denied that his card comment was a response to Dembski’s work. He said, “all I was addressing was a general argument one hears from many ID supporters in which one takes something like a particular amino acid sequence, and then calculates the probability of the exact same sequence arising again through mere chance.” The problem with Miller’s response is that even if one takes it at face value he still appears mendacious, because no prominent ID theorist has ever argued “X is improbable; therefore X was designed.”

This seems to be the BBC program.

One wonders what the Darwin-in-the-schools lobby will do now that Darwinism is under fire from a number of quarters and any broader understanding of evolution would contrast with the textbook dogmatism that is their niche.

See also: Post-modern science: The illusion of consciousness sees through itself

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