Here’s a report from a colleague on Ken Miller’s talk yesterday evening at Sacred Heart University (Ã¢â‚¬Å“Intelligent Design and the Battle for America’s Schools: Why Darwin Still MattersÃ¢â‚¬Â — go here for the press release):
Earlier tonight I attended a presentation by Ken Miller at Sacred Heart University. It appears he got a pretty good turnout. I could only attend for about 45 min and I didn’t take any notes. Here are a few quick thoughts about the style and substance of his talk.
As far as style goes, Miller gave a good and entertaining presentation. It was very professional, slick, and colorful; he makes very effective use of various technological and visual aides; at times he was even funny. Indeed, on several occasions he had the audience cracking up. The only annoying part of his talk, in terms of style (more on substance momentarily), was his continual bragging about his credentials, how many books he has written, his qualifications, etc. I’ve never seen so many pictures and slides of the presenter! Overall I’d have to say he put on a darn good show.
As far as substance goes, a few things seemed noteworthy – at least to me. First, and I suppose this is to be expected, Miller didn’t do a good job presenting the ID side of the debate; it was not a balanced presentation. He broke his talk into two main parts. In the first part, he talked about how to refute supposedly scientific arguments against Darwinian evolution; and he discussed the scientific evidence that he thinks proves Darwinian evolution. In the second part of the talk, he discussed how there really are no valid scientific objections to Darwinian evolution and, thus, how the real debate is over the perceived antagonism between religion (faith) and darwinism (science).
As far as evidence for Darwinism goes, he presented an interesting line of argument. He talked about how apes and monkeys have 48 chromosomes while humans have only 46. He then claimed that the theory of Darwinian evolution *predicted* that humans would have a fused chromosome. He then claimed that, sure enough, in 2004 scientists discovered that chromosome 2 in man was the fusion product of two chromosomes and that this was yet another example of Darwinism leading to a bold, exciting and testable prediction that was later confirmed by scientific research.
[Another colleague responded to this line of argument as follows: “Note that as usual the Darwinist fails to distinguish the hypothesis of common descent from the putative mechanism of random variation/selective retention. At most Miller might say that common descent implies a common ancestor, which in turn implies either a fusion event in the hominid line or a reduplication event in the pongid line. However, nothing about the theory of natural selection per se allows us to make that particular prediction, and so the discovery does not count as confirmation of that theory. If natural selection were a robust theory that allowed us to make predictions about, say, the timing of the fusion event, which could then be indepedently confirmed, then that would be another matter. But it is not.”]
Ken then made a point implicit in Finding Darwin’s God. In his talk he distinguished between two forms of ID: a more general form of ID, which simply holds that there’s an intelligence behind the universe; and a more specific form of ID, which he termed “interventionist” and which holds that an intelligent agent had to intervene in the course of time to make things happen that would not otherwise have happened. He explicitly identified himself with the first form of ID and self-described ID theorists (presumably people like Bill Dembski, Mike Behe, Jonathan Wells, etc.), with the latter version of ID.
Ken then moved on to the second part of his talk – the alleged conflict between Darwinism and Christianity (theism more generally). He started bringing up and quoting from the Wedge document but then I had to leave. That’s my quick summary of Miller’s talk.
For a refutation of Ken Miller’s chromosome fusion argument, which he also made on the witness stand in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case, see Casey Luskin’s article “And the Miller Told His Tale: Ken Miller’s Cold (Chromosomal) Fusion” (go here for the article).