Here is an edited report on Ken Miller’s talk that he gave at Texas Tech back in March 2006 (go here) as well as a portion of a keynote address given by Francis Collins at the 2002 ASA meeting in Malibu (go here):
Ken Miller’s talk was well attended — the auditorium was stacked (400+) with biology professors and their compulsory biology students (for extra credit). The talk was surprisingly fair on the subject of God, but it was terribly unfair (and disjointed) on the subject of Intelligent Design. Almost no facts were given and nearly all of his argument dealt with the Dover v. Kitzmiller trial in which he testified. As usual, Intelligent Design was conflated with creationism. The most interesting part of the talk for me came at the end when the following question was posed: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Since biologists donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really have a good grasp on the origin of life itself, and since life has clearly resulted some kind of self-organization to go from a bunch of chemicals to the point where we are today, couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the origin of life be the point at which God’s involvement in creation was direct?Ã¢â‚¬Â As this question was posed, at least a third of the students in the crowd nodded their heads yes. The professors in the crowd just looked confused; and scared. To my surprise however, Dr. Miller said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“absolutely!Ã¢â‚¬Â That made the professors look even more confused. During the book signing afterwards, I approached Dr. Miller and told him I appreciated him bringing up the possibility of God and science as not being mutually exclusive. I then chastised him for not fairly treating both sides of the argument. His response was that he didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have time and he was asked by the professors [read politburo] to cover certain material more. I reminded him of the importance of ethics in science. I then told him I believed he had a very important mission in this world and that he should follow it. I walked away as he looked uncomfortable.
[Collins speaking:] Another issue, howeverÃ¢â‚¬â€one where I am very puzzled about what the answer will beÃ¢â‚¬â€is the origin of life. Four billion years ago, the conditions on this planet were completely inhospitable to life as we know it; 3.85 billion years ago, life was teeming. That is a very short periodÃ¢â‚¬â€150 million yearsÃ¢â‚¬â€for the assembly of macromolecules into a self-replicating form. I think even the most bold and optimistic proposals for the origin of life fall well short of achieving any real probability for that kind of event having occurred. Is this where God entered? Is this how life got started? I am happy to accept that model, but it will not shake my faith if somebody comes up with a model that explains how that the first cells formed without divine intervention. Again, watch out for the God-of-the-gaps. However, I think it is noteworthy that this particular area of evolution, the earliest step, is still very much in disarray.
Why shouldn’t Miller and Collins be called ID proponents (or at least ID sympathizers) when it comes to the origin of life? And if ID is scientifically valid at the origin of life, aren’t they on a slippery slope? If ID is potentially valid at the origin of life, what is to preclude its validity for the subsequent history of life?