Intelligent Design

Kenneth Miller: “Intelligent people can sometimes be wrong.”

Spread the love

This from the SPECTATOR. Melanie Phillips is also quite the favorite at

Creating an Insult to Intelligence
By Melanie Phillips
Wednesday, 29th April 2009…insult-to-intelligence

Listening to the Today programme this morning, I was irritated once again by yet another misrepresentation of Intelligent Design as a form of Creationism. In an item on the growing popularity of Intelligent Design, John Humphrys interviewed Professor Ken Miller of Brown University in the US who spoke on the subject last evening at the Faraday Institute, Cambridge. Humphrys suggested that Intelligent Design might be considered a kind of middle ground between Darwinism and Creationism. Miller agreed but went further, saying that Intelligent Design was

nothing more than an attempt to repackage good old-fashioned Creationism and make it more palatable.

But this is totally untrue. Miller referred to a landmark US court case in 2005, Kitzmiller v Dover Area School District, which did indeed uphold the argument that Intelligent Design was a form of Creationism in its ruling that teaching Intelligent Design violated the constitutional ban against teaching religion in public schools. But the court was simply wrong, doubtless because it had heard muddled testimony from the likes of Prof Miller.

Whatever the ramifications of the specific school textbooks under scrutiny in the Kitzmiller/Dover case, the fact is that Intelligent Design not only does not come out of Creationism but stands against it. This is because Creationism comes out of religion while Intelligent Design comes out of science. Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days. Intelligent Design, whose proponents are mainly scientists, holds that the complexity of science suggests that there must have been a governing intelligence behind the origin of matter, which could not have developed spontaneously from nothing.

The confusion arises partly out of ignorance, with people lazily confusing belief in a Creator with Creationism. But belief in a Creator is common to all people of monotheistic faith — with many scientists amongst them — the vast majority of whom would regard Creationism as totally ludicrous. In coming to the conclusion that a governing intelligence must have been responsible for the ultimate origin of matter, Intelligent Design proponents are essentially saying there must have been a creator. The difference between them and people of religious faith is that ID proponents do not necessarily believe in a personalised Creator, or God.

As a result, both Creationists and many others of religious faith disdain Intelligent Design, just as ID proponents think Creationism is totally off the wall. Yet the two continue to be conflated. And ignorance is only partly responsible for the confusion, since militant evangelical atheists deliberately conflate Intelligent Design with Creationism in order to smear and discredit ID and its adherents.

On Today, Humphrys perfectly reasonably pressed Miller further. If ID was merely a disguised form of Creationism, he asked, why were so many intelligent people prepared to accept ID but not Creationism? Miller replied:

Intelligent people can sometimes be wrong.

Indeed; and it is Prof Miller who is wrong. Creationism and Intelligent Design are two completely different ways of looking at the world; and you don’t have to subscribe to either to realise the untruth that is being propagated — and the wrong that is being done to people’s reputations — by the pretence that they are connected.

19 Replies to “Kenneth Miller: “Intelligent people can sometimes be wrong.”

  1. 1
    StephenA says:

    Just because some of us are Creationists as well as ID supporters doesn’t mean we don’t know the difference.

    You are free to disagree with us about the exact history of earth and life of course. Indeed, isn’t that what we’re fighting for? The freedom to disagree about the origin of life without being attacked or censored?

  2. 2

    February 26, 2006 I posted here at UD an obituary for Henry Morris. It began: “It’s with sadness I announce that Henry Morris died Saturday evening (2.25.06). Henry Morris was a great man, and all critics of Darwinian evolution are in his debt for maintaining pressure on this pseudoscience when so much of the Western world capitulated to it….”

    [click here for rest]

  3. 3
    madsen says:

    Hmm—in view of Henry Morris’ very “off the wall” YEC theories, it’s hard for me to view him as an opponent of pseudoscience. Isn’t he the one who proposed that the craters on the moon were the result of a war between angels and demons?

  4. 4
    AmerikanInKananaskis says:

    Just because some of us are Creationists as well as ID supporters doesn’t mean we don’t know the difference.

    So you’re holding two conflicting ideas in your mind? And you support them both? I would say “huzzah for compartmentalization”, but you seem to be aware of it.

    Or are you saying that creationism falls under the umbrella of ID? (As opposed to ID falling under the umbrella of creationism, as Dawkins, etc. say.)

  5. 5
    AmerikanInKananaskis says:

    Yes, to be perfectly fair, Darwinism is closer to the truth than YEC after you consider all the manifestly untrue baggage that comes with it.

    Evolution does not necessarily exclude God. YEC, on the other hand, does exclude things that we know to be true, like say, the fact that the earth is more than 6000 years old, and that Cain and Abel didn’t have pet procompsognathids.

  6. 6
    HouseStreetRoom says:

    AmerikanInKananaskis @1

    I’m not so sure your approach is necessarily justified [driving away Creation supporters who feel the two share some kind compatibility with respect to the origins of life etc.]. They already are separate. Please do not misunderstand: I agree that ID and Creationism are certainly two distinct, differing theories or fields of study. However, those opposed to Intelligent Design science who misrepresent ID as Creationism will continue to do so regardless of militant attempts to separate the two. The failure does not lie with any “side”, but with those too dishonest to recognize apples from oranges (i.e. Ken Miller).

    At the end of the day, these theories do not stand on caricatures by the opposition, but on facts and data. To anyone who truthfully wishes to discern fact from fiction, said theories will present themselves as such.

  7. 7
    Sal Gal says:

    Bill Dembski,

    Does intelligence create complex specified information out of nothing, or does it not?

  8. 8
    djmullen says:

    Phillip E. Johnson disagrees:
    “Clearing up confusion requires a careful and consistent use of terms.

    In this book, “creation science” refers to young-earth, six-day special creation.

    “Creationism” means belief in creation in a more general sense.

    Persons who believe that the earth is billions of years old, and the simple forms of life evolved gradually to become more complex forms including humans, are “creationists” if they believe that a supernatural Creator not only initiated this process but in some meaningful sense controls it in furtherance of a purpose.

    As we shall see, “evolution” (in contemporary usage) excludes not just creation-science but creationism in the broad sense.

    By “Darwinism” I mean fully naturalistic evolution, involving chance mechanisms guided by natural selection.”

    Source: Phillip E. Johnson, Darwin on Trial (2nd ed.), Intervarsity Press, p.4 (footnote).

  9. 9

    According to Oxford Prof. Peter Harrison in ‘The Bible Protestantism and Natural Science’ science developed because of a literal reading of scripture that was extended to reading nature literally instead of the symbolic pre-modern reading. The idea that science can be done outside of that framework is surely a fallacy because it is dependent upon an approach that is ‘truth seeking.’ or there is such a thing as material objective truth.
    ID has always been part of creationism whether YEC or OEC as an analogy to human intelligence based on the idea that mankind is created in God’s image. The idea that the bacterial flagellum is analogous to an outboard motor follows that tradition and is a statement about the designer.

  10. 10
    John S says:

    If there is a designer/force/god that made everything ex nihilo, and life from non life, isn’t it/he outside the realm of science? Isn’t it ‘totally ludicrous/off the wall’ to claim, exclusively by science, to know how or when or why or for what purposes it/he did so? You’re saying ‘We intelligent folks, trusting only observable science, have determined that this unscientific being or force must always act in a scientific fashion. Even though certainly it/he initially and preeminently did not act in accord with known science.’ The hubris in the face of the Awesome is baffling. Why not ‘creationists hold a view that many ID proponents find scientifically untenable’ rather that creationists are ‘totally off the wall’ and ‘totally ludicrous’? If the aim is to pander to the evolutionists perhaps a different blog would serve better. If the aim is to belittle believers in Yaweh, mission accomplished!
    PS I’m not a scientist so discount my entire post.

  11. 11
    Green says:

    I’m going to a lecture by Ken Miller in about an hour, and am expecting to be sitting through the whole thing frustrated at his misrepresentations.

  12. 12
    jerry says:

    I wrote this over 6 months ago to deal with the question of the confusion of ID with creationism.

    I have had a creationist and a couple Darwinist say they have no problem with it. Anyone that wishes to add anything please do so.

  13. 13
    Borne says:

    Andrew Sibley:

    The idea that the bacterial flagellum is analogous to an outboard motor follows that tradition…

    Just a tiny correction there – the flagellum is not analogous to an outboard motor – it IS an outboard motor.

    As for Creationism and ID: I also consider myself both. There is a creator, he demonstrates infinite intelligence in the material universes’ laws, tuning, biological systems etc..

    Whether the Genesis 1 account is literal or not, to me is a side issue – though important.
    YEC or OEC? Who cares?
    Both are creationist groupings.

    The one central unifying theme is that the evidence says that both the universe and life had to come from a superlative intelligence and power.

    So, ID is necessarily a part of creationism but not the inverse. Creationism is not a part of ID. ID specifically has no connection the bible or any other ancient authority or book.

    Panspermia, in so far as it purports intelligent alien life forms as designing and planting life on earth is ID coherent in most ways. It would seem to fail in other ways but the gist of ID is in there.

  14. 14
    SCheesman says:

    Andrew Sibley:

    Just a tiny correction there – the flagellum is not analogous to an outboard motor – it IS an outboard motor.

    Since we’re adding tiny corrections, here’s one more: it’s an inboard motor.

  15. 15
    critiacrof says:

    It’s neither; It’s in the cell wall. Also outboard motors don’t stick out much.

  16. 16
    Nakashima says:

    So what is Ms Phillips’ explanation of the famous phrase ‘cdesign proponentsists’? Exaptation?

  17. 17
    SCheesman says:


    It’s neither; It’s in the cell wall. Also outboard motors don’t stick out much.

    “Inboard” is not determined by how far “in” it is. It just has to be separated from “propeller” by the outside of the “wall/hull”.

    You can see an outboard motor when you’re outside the boat. Anything else is inboard.

  18. 18
    critiacrof says:

    What I meant was that an outboard motor from a top view is on the inside and on the outside of the hull.
    But I can agree with you that an inboard motor has to have the “wall/hull” between motor and prop. But the motor of the flagellum is quite open.

    So I still think it is neither, because it is not entirely on the inside and it is not seperated and a true outboard motor has half of the motor on the inside.

    But if the bearings aren’t part of the motor you are right, because the motor is then seperated.

  19. 19
    toc says:

    “Creationism, whose proponents are Bible literalists, is a specific doctrine which holds that the earth was literally created in six days.”

    Ms. Phillips might stand corrected if she were to read a few books authored by Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist or Fazelle Rana, a bio-chemist.

    Having read a few of their books myself I am certain that they don’t propose a creation of six literal days of 144 hours and yet they consider themselves creationists.

Leave a Reply