Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

IDEA co-founder disembowels Ken Miller’s strawman

arroba Email

If Miller ever makes an appearance in a public event to criticize ID, during the Q&A session, IDers should call him into account for why he misrepresented Michael Behe’s ideas under oath in Kitzmiller vs. Dover.

Casey Luskin, IDEA co-founder and attorney at the Discovery Institute, exposed the misrepresentations which Miller used in the trial. These misrepresentations were used by Judge Jones to unjustly criticize Michael Behe and Scott Minnich’s testimony.

Here is the link: Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts?

Miller in his debate circuit uses various kinds of Logical Fallacies such as Strawman and Equivocation.

For example, in a debate in the Fall of 2005 at the American Enterprise Institute (organized by former IDEA member Joe Manzari), Miller equivocated the term “functional”. Miller quoted Behe:

An irreducibly complex system cannot be produced directly (that is, by continuously improving the initial function, which continues to work by the same mechanism) by slight, successive modifications of a precursor system, because any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional.

Miller then equivocated the word “functional” in that debate. Miller said the type-III secretory system (TTSS for short, and has 1/4 of the proteins of the flagellum) is functional, therefore it demonstrates functional precursors are conceptually possible, therefore Behe is wrong.

But Behe was referring to the function of the flagellum, not the function of the TTSS. Miller used The Fallacy of Equivocation.

Paul Nelson in that debate pointed out Miller misrepresented Behe, but Nelson was really too polite. He did not take Miller to task for his outright misrepresentations, strawman arguments, and falsehoods. Nelson was far too polite and softly said, “That’s not what Behe meant,” and let it go at that.

Too bad DaveScot and I weren’t there as we would not have been so courteous. But now that Miller has committed this misrpresentation under oath, IDers should never let him off the hook for doing so. Never! “Ken, why do you knowingly repeat these equivocations and misrepresentations of Behe’s ideas. Behe has repeatedly pointed out you are mischaracterizing his postion. So why do you persist doing so, and why did you do so under oath?”

Here is material to help one deal with the Ken Miller strawman arguments. Casey Luskin shows how to disembowel such strawmen.

Do Car Engines Run on Lugnuts?

A pictorial summary of Luskin’s paper.

this is Behe’s arch:


this is Miller’s strawman version of Behe’s arch:


this is what happens to Miller’s straman version of Behe’s arch when the strawman version is subject to critical scrutiny:


Sal writes:
I don’t know, and I leave it to Miller to explain why he misrepresented Behe under oath. He can say: 1. I didn’t misrepresent Behe (which is a false statement) 2. I did it because I hate ID even though I knew it was wrong (which is perjury) 3. I did it because I didn’t understand what Behe meant (which is an admission of incompetence by an expert witness)
As I said, after reading a lot of Miller and about MIller, I'm really beginning to think it is #3. I just don't think he understands Behe's arguments and the science behind them at all. I really don't. If it is #1 or #2, then, as they down south, he's got a lot o' splainin' to do!!! In any case, what is clear is that it is still the case that it has been 10 years since Behe published Darwin's Black Box and there still is not one single solitary research study in any peer reviewed journal that provides a detailed evolutionary explanation for the origins of any of the IC systems Behe described in the book. Not one. Zip zero nada...all vigorous, hand-waving claims to the contrary by Darwinists not-with-standing. Miller can misrepresent all he wants, but he can't magically make these studies appear, or make studies dealing with other topics somehow become explanations of something completely different, how hard ever he tries. If he were half the scientist he claims to be (and some of his sychophantic followers takehim to be), then you would think he would have produced at least one study by now somewhere. Where is it? Instead he devotes all his time and energy to mischaracterizing Behe's argument. He'd gain a lot more respect and traction if he could scientifically demonstrate that Behe is wrong. Best of luck with that, one Dr. Miller. We won't hold our breath! DonaldM
It should not surprise anyone that any attack upon the official creed of evolution meets with this type of rethoric. Giving the fact that Darwinists cannot refute the scientific criticisms posed against their theory, they have to build strawmen in order to "save face" (aka, keep the funds; hide their materialistic agenda; etc). Mats
"Plea to the moderators~~ Win the next court case!" The more I examine the Dover case, the more it does, in fact, look as if the "ID" the school board was pushing included hints of Creationism, and so Jones was probably right in ruling that particular case unconstitutional. What he got wrong was his ruling that ID is religion. Science or not, the concept of intelligent design is separate from Creationism; although the two have historically been very close, they can be logically separated. Perhaps ID would not fit very well into a science curriculum, but its teaching would not be a violation of the establishment clause. It is my hope and expectation that ID will eventually find a place in general education curricula (not in religious studies), but right now I think the main focus of ID proponents (and everybody else who values science education and civil liberties, for that matter) should be to encourage the critical analysis of neo-Darwinian evolution in science classes. crandaddy
It seems to me that we IDist/IDers are in big quandry when it comes to taking this to court. Seems like 1) most judges are biased and 2) don't have the science background to understand evo or ID! Even if the judge didn't agree w/ the IC and ID arguement it still doesn't mean its "pseudoscience." *frustrated* I know Prof. Miller has this whole thing about how the judge , if anything, would've been sentimental toward ID blah blah and so justifies himself saying he could see through the IDers trap. But Prof. Miller does have one thing a knack for misleading arguments to show ID wasn't a science ie his science was bad but his rhetoric was good. Sad that it came down to that... I guess he must've took a business class, you know the ones where they tell you to try and sell the most unmarketable items ever like pantyhose for guys (i actually had this assignment) - In his case evolution to nonscientists. Plea to the moderators~~ Win the next court case! jpark320
Salvador, can we have multiple choice for the reasons Miller misrepresented Behe? If so, 1 and 2 it would seem to me. It seem from what I've seen thus far, all evolution can do is conserve morphology or modify morphology by reduction of number of features or organs, but not add to number organs to modify morphology. Co-option of organs into new function or modified functions seems to be possible to some extent. So I suppose that I would have to concurr with Dr. Sair in the origins of the flagellum and ttsm carbon14atom
Ken Miller and the co-option argument (which he advertises as objective science) make me want to jump off a cliff while pulling my hair out on the way down in a state of total frustration. Co-option is a logical and evidential dungheap of Himalayan proportions. All the parts must have previous useful functions. All the parts must be in the right place at the right time, and must be mechanically and functionally compatible. And last, but certainly not least, one needs the assembly instructions and the assembly mechanism, both of which must not be incomplete at any point in order to achieve function. Behe is right, and attempts to refute his arguments, logic, and evidence reveal transparent desperation. GilDodgen
I always like to try to keep things as simple as possible. Sounds much like the bulb and socket to me. But let's try another: A functional system is not a car. It is a complete car, a tank of gas, and a driver who knows where he's goin'. (kingdom, power,& glory) Zero Zero
Darn, my quote tags didn't work. That entire last bit is a quote and the first part about the flagellum coming first is too. I guess we shouldn't be surprised that an evolutionist would resort to using misleading evidence and testimony. Anyway, it leaves me shaking my head. Doug
It is most frustrating that Ken Miller ignored known best science: it is worth noting that a leading authority on bacterial systematics, Milton Saier, still believes that TTSS evolved FROM the flagellum, utterly breaks his own argument. I did a google search on Dr. Saier. He is a respected scientist at UCSD. He is not a "religious appologist" or a member of the DI or anything. Dr. Sair quoted again: “Regarding the bacterial flagellum and TTSSs, we must consider three (and only three) possibilities. First, the TTSS came first; second, the Fla system came first; or third, both systems evolved from a common precursor. At present, too little information is available to distinguish between these possibilities with certainty. As is often true in evaluating evolutionary arguments, the investigator must rely on logical deduction and intuition. According to my own intuition and the arguments discussed above, I prefer pathway 2. What’s your opinion? Doug

"Is there some reason other than sloth why you couldn’t type behe co-option into google as quickly as I could to find the answer to your own question? -ds"

If one of Behe's definitions of IC allows for co-option/eaptation then Luskin's arguments about what Behe really meant by 'function' are moot.




Flung... Figure 1 -ds Jazmine

Hi DonaldM,

You asked: "Isn’t perjury the purposeful presentation of false and misleading testimony under oath in a court of law? Do you think that’s what Miller did?"

I don't know, and I leave it to Miller to explain why he misrepresented Behe under oath.

He can say:

1. I didn't misrepresent Behe (which is a false statement)
2. I did it because I hate ID even though I knew it was wrong (which is perjury)
3. I did it because I didn't understand what Behe meant (which is an admission of incompetence by an expert witness)

All three alternatives are not exactly great, with #1 being the easist out for Miller. In either case, he should never be let off the hook until he acknowledges he was wrong. We can't let him off the hook for this.

And to clarify, the question of whether Behe is right or wrong about ID is not the issue. The issue is whether Miller misrepresented Behe's ideas, and the answer is an obvious yes.

What does Behe himself have to say? In Dover transcript I lost count of how many times Behe said, Miller "mischaracterized" his position. That Jones would defer to Miller for what Behe actually meant about Behe's own theories only shows that Jones is an unjust judge.



Ken Miller may argue against irreducible complexity, but immunologists and biologists study it all the time! Fairly new research of Apoptosis study irreducibly complex systems.

That Miller would mischaracterize Behe's argument is hardly a surprise. He's be doing it almost since the book was written. The question is, is Miller doing this on purpose, knowing full well he's setting up a straw man argument, or is does he just not understand what's really at issue with respect to IC? I suppose the easy answer is to assume the former rather than the latter, but the more I read and hear about Miller's comments, the more I wonder. Frankly, I just don't think he gets it. He's so sure that evolution explains everything that it is inconceivable to him that there really could be a significant hurdle called irreducible complexity to overcome. In his mind, there is no such thing as IC. So in his testimony at Kitzmiller, I really think Miller testified to exactly how he understands IC and Behe's argument, which is to say, he doesn't understand it all. Of all which means, he was NOT the expert witness everyone, including Judge Jones took him to be. At the very least an expert witness ought to understand the subject about which he is testifying. I don't think Miller does at all, his academic and research credentials not-with-standing. On the other hand, if he really did misrepresent Behe on purpose,, (that is to say knowingly with malice aforethought) and it could be shown that he did, then that seems pretty close to commiting perjury. Isn't perjury the purposeful presentation of false and misleading testimony under oath in a court of law? Do you think that's what Miller did? Personally, I think Miller just doesn't understand the basic problem IC presents for Darwinian evolution and so can't help but misrepresent it. He is most likely accurately representing how he understands it, which is to say, hardly at all. DonaldM


Do any one of Behe's definitions of IC allow for co-option or exaptation? If not, then then IC is practically useless in terms of biological evolution. Re-defining IC so that it demands a mutation->selection pathway for each adaptation reduces it to nothing more than an argument from ignorance.


Do any one of Behe's definitions of IC allow for co-option or exaptation? Yes Is there some reason other than sloth why you couldn't type behe co-option into google as quickly as I could to find the answer to your own question? -ds Jazmine
Jazmine, You're kidding right? Why would you post on this page without even reading the article? This is amusing; people claim that those who support the possibiliy of ID come to the table with presuppositions. Read the article, read Luskin's paper, and then read Jazmine's response. You'll see why this is so amusing. Doug
I never liked how Miller misrepresented Behe's argument; stating that the parts of an IC system can't have any function at all when removed from the whole. If he (Miller) honestly believed this to be the brunt of Behe's argument, then why not attack the example of ciliary movement that Behe presents in DBB? Miller, with his reasoning, could have said, "the cilium is clearly not IC. Behe states the motor (dyenin), the linkers (nexin) and the microtubules are necessary for ciliary movement. Without one of these parts, he states, the unit doesn't function. However, microtubules are employed in a vast number of ways within the cell. One such way is to provide structural support." It's clear that the constituent parts of the cilium have functions that are independent of ciliary motion, Behe acknowledges this. It's clear that parts of the bacterial flagellum can be employeed elsewhere, carrying out a function not related to the function that Behe is claiming to be IC. It's the function that Behe is concerned about, not whether certain parts that constitute the whole set up can be employed elsewhere and carry out functions that are not directly related to bacterial movement. Doug

This leaves me with a pair of questions, the first I suspect I know the answer to, but I'll throw it up here so I don't jump to undue conclusions:

"Behe asserts that a system is irreducibly complex if the system stops functioning upon the removal of one part."

Now, a face-value reading of this suggests to me that if I have a system with 5 'parts' called A-E, and I remove part B, and it stops functioning, I have proven irreducible complexity. That seems silly, and I doubt it's what was meant, it seems like there's a whole lot more work that needs to be done, so can someone perhaps rephrase how the test on my A-E system would work?

My second question:

"Moreover, Miller ignored the fact that any evolutionary explanation of a system must account for much more than simply the availability of the parts."

This seems obviously true, but I wonder whether it is outside the realm of irreducible complexity. Is the measure of irreducible complexity merely the ability or inability to maintain function throughout an evolutionary path, or does it also involve the ability of a step along the pathway to occur, let alone result in a functional system?

I had thought that the use of the term 'slight' changes, and other synonyms meant that changes which are 'slight' are able to be taken as a given as far as their ability to at least occur - otherwise they wouldn't be slight. So am I wrong about what the term 'slight' means? If so, can someone give a technical definition, please?

Describe a scientific method by which the natural evolution of the flagella can be falsified. If you cannot describe a method then the hypothesis of flagellum evolution is unfalsifiable pseudo-science. Good luck. -ds Tiax
From the above it appears that Miller gave an over-simplified explanation of how the flagellum mechanism evolved via exaptation, that he made misstatements, and that he applied faulty logic. But I note he was very precise in his testimony, both direct/ redirect, and in cross examination by defense attorney Ruise. He has written biology text books that are widely used in high schools (or were in the 90's), and is considered to be one of the leading experts/proponents of current Darwinian thought. Whew! Tough to go up against that. He also knows Michael Behe well, and has debated him on numerous occasions. To moderate his position slightly, he's written a book called, "Finding Darwin's God". Although I haven't read it, reviews I have read state that in it, he attempts to reconcile philosophical arguments about how and why evolution is consistent with the existence of God. (Miller is a Roman Catholic). I gather from these reviews that he believes in a God of the Universe, and that evolution may, in fact, be a mechanism by with that entity has indeed accomplished creation! That being the case, why in heavens name would he firmly assert that evolution, as a process, might not be guided?? Naturalistic perhaps, but with intervention. He appears to be straddling the fence, and although attorney Ruise, in his cross examination on day one of the trial, mentioned the book, I don't see where he made the above challenge. That point, along with coming up with a better refutation of the 'evolved flagellum' arguments, would have gone a long way toward establishing the case for IC and ID, and may have altered the outcome of the trial. It appears that the prosecution could not have produced a witness better qualified to buttress their case. His book, "The Flagellum Unspun" (The Collapse of Irreducible Complexity), puts forth the exaptation argument, and although I'm not a biologist, I strongly disdain that argument from a purely logical standpoint; that of there never being enough co-opted functions, nor would the parts form together in the proper order, and at the proper time to produce the final complex entity. Design, i.e. the ability to 'see ahead' to the intended outcome, and to come up with the needed parts and assemble them properly, is the only way that small successive changes could produce a complex organism. In summary, Casey Luskin's essay about lugnuts well summarizes the fallacies of the evolutionist's (and especially Ken Miller's) position. If we could do the trial over, I feel that more could have been said to discredit Miller's testimony, and to bolster Behe's. Perhaps Dembski should have testified, although much of what he might say would have gone over Judge Jones' head. And yes, Paul Nelson could have fought harder. I guess we're left with, 'where will the next round be fought'? leebowman
Luskin writes: "Only by reverse-engineering a system to test for function at each transitional stage can one determine if a system has “reducible complexity” or “irreducible complexity.”" Maybe he should have rephrased this. It sounds like he is assuming that each "transitional stage" of a given system (in this case the flagellum) is already known in detail. improvius

Behe's use of 'function' appears to rule out co-option from the outset. The point of co-option is that a previous iteration of a structure possibly had a different function. If you're going to restrict the meaning of function in the definition of IC in that way then it's merely reduced to a nonsense argument:

IC system A can only perform X function when all of its parts are present.

Is it not possible that system A evolved, via co-option, from system with fewer parts and a different function?

[Jazmine, did you read the article by Luskin? You just mischaracterized Behe exactly the way Miller did by focusing on an isolated text in Behe's book. Salvador]


Leave a Reply