Readers of these pages are familiar with the logical fallacy known as Miller’s Mendacity. From our glossary:
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.”
Over at ENV Kirk Durston presents his take on the error, which we commend to our readers.