Professor Kenneth Miller, the acclaimed author of Finding Darwin’s God, was recently interviewed by Swedish magician and skeptic Samuel Varg for a three-part series on faith, science and magic. Here’s the 33-minute interview, which Varg posted on Youtube:
Who is Samuel Varg?
Two weeks ago, Matt Young of Panda’s Thumb put up a post about the interview, in which Varg described his background as follows:
You want my background? OK. I’m a Swedish guy, and I’m 31 years old. When I was around 17, I became involved in creationism and bought that whole concept of this black-and-white worldview with evolution as a big lie. Around 20 I started to look into the actual debate and wanted to know “the enemy,” so to speak. So I started to read up on evolution and realized that I had been wrong. So around the age of 22-23 I made a big turnaround, and since then I have been a big promoter of the science of evolution. I also got very interested in why I was able to fool myself and buy this big fat lie of creationism, so I started to look into deception. I always had a big interest in magic, but this really sparked my interest. So now I work as a full-time magician and have seminars about this kind of stuff.
That’s me in a nutshell.
Mr. Varg might be interested in having a look at this 39-minute video by Douglas Ell, an attorney in Washington, D.C., with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics from MIT, and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland in theoretical mathematics. Douglas Ell’s intellectual transition went in the opposite direction to that of Varg: although raised in a religious home, he became a convinced atheist in college, but in later years, came to embrace the theory of Intelligent Design, which he argues for in his new book, Counting to God, reviewed here by Casey Luskin. (Douglas Ell’s Website can be found here.) In the video, Ell gives a summary of the argument contained in his book, which is highly recommended by Professor Peter Fisher, Head of the Department of Physics, MIT, who wrote the Introduction.
What did Kenneth Miller say in his interview with Varg?
Professor Kenneth Miller, in his laboratory at Brown Uiversity in 2006. Image courtesy of Manning Bartlett and Wikipedia.
In his interview with Samuel Varg, Professor Kenneth Miller defended his position very articulately. It is not the purpose of this post to critique his arguments for Darwin’s theory of evolution, which he claimed had never been falsified in 150 years of testing. (I can’t help wondering what Professors Larry Moran and P.Z. Myers, who are eloquent advocates of the nearly-neutral theory of evolution, would have to say about that. The picture of evolution that Myers paints in this post is a strikingly different one.)
Nor is it my concern to comment on Professor Miller’s theological remark [29:12 to 31:12] that “It doesn’t matter” if Jesus actually turned water into wine and walked on water: what matters, he says, is that Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Professor Jerry Coyne, in a recent post on Miller’s interview, makes a pertinent observation here: “That being the case, Varg should immediately have asked him if he thought Jesus was resurrected from the dead.”
But what really attracted my attention in the interview was the fact that nine years after the Kitzmiller-Dover trial of 2005, Professor Miller continues to propagate an insidious myth about the book that was the centerpiece of the trial: Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins (Haughton Publishing Company, Mesquite, TX, 1989; 2nd edition, 1993). Here’s the relevant excerpt, which I have transcribed word for word [starting at 10:37]:
Samuel Varg: At the Dover-Kitzmiller trial, did something specific convince Judge Jones that creationism is religion
and not science?
Miller: First of all, let me explain that the particular trial, the Kitzmiller trial of which you speak, went on for seven weeks. So this was a very long trial, with much testimony. My own testimony in the trial took place only during the first two days of the trial. And naturally, I would love to say that I was the most important witness in the trial. [Chuckles.] But I think that overstates my role.
Samuel Varg: I’m not sure it does. I think you were.
Miller: Well, we’ll see – we can see about that.
But I have to tell you that I really think the decisive evidence that was truly persuasive to the judge came from the work of another expert witness on our side of the case, a wonderful professor of philosophy named Barbara Forrest, from the state of Louisiana. And Barbara had done research to show that the textbook purchased for students in Dover – and it was a textbook about Intelligent Design, and about the idea of a Designer for life – Barbara was able to show that that textbook had actually been produced from a creationist textbook, in which God was referred to, and in which the word “creation” was used, instead of the term “intelligent design.”
Samuel Varg: And this is Of Pandas and People?
Miller: That is correct. What this led the judge to write, in his pinions, was that intelligent design cannot disentangle itself – cannot get away – from its creationist roots. And it’s important for your listeners in Sweden to understand that in the legal system of the United States, one court – the Supreme Court of the United States – basically controls, or has the final say in, judicial matters. And almost 20 years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that creationism was in fact religious, and therefore could not be taught in schools, due to a violation of the American Constitution. So once the judge saw that Intelligent Design was also creationism, he was obliged to rule against the school board.
Samuel Varg: Would you like to explain the similarities or relationships between creationism and intelligent design, first and foremost thinking of all the discoveries that Barbara Forrest did? And what happened to the book, Of Pandas and People, in 1987?
Miller: Sure, I’d be glad to. The advocates of intelligent design argue that intelligent design is different from creationism, and they use the word “design” constantly, instead of the word “creation.” But think for a minute about what that actually means. If one says that the proteins that clot our blood were designed, or the animals that existed during the Cambrian period of geology were designed, one does not just mean that they were designed. One means that they were created, or brought into existence, by a power acting outside of Nature, therefore a Supernatural Power. So, taken at face value, Intelligent Design is actually a theory of Special Creationism. And in the Kitzmiller trial, it was demonstrated very clearly that the Intelligent Design textbook, called Of Pandas and People, had been produced by taking a book which explained creationism, and by the simple act of calling the Creator a Designer. And that impressed the judge a great deal, but the way in which I describe it is that the publishers of that textbook had a book that talked about the Creator, and talked about creationism, and after a decision of the United States Supreme Court decided that creationism was religious, they simply took the manuscript, they fired up Microsoft Word, and they did a Find and Replace, and they replaced the word “Creator” with the word “Designer,” and they pretended that the book was entirely different, and in fact it was not. So I regard Intelligent Design as simply an effort to re-label creationism, to make it more acceptable by calling it a slightly different name. It really uses every creationist trick it can to try to undermine the theory of evolution, and in many respects you might say that’s the real purpose of that book.
The discovery that the word “creationism,” which appeared in early drafts of the book, was subsequently replaced by the phrase “intelligent design,” was widely reported as a “devastating” blow for the credibility of the Intelligent Design movement. Nick Matzke, who testified at the Kitzmiller-Dover trial, added that the timing was also very suspicious: the switching of the words, he alleged, had come just after the US Supreme Court’s decision in its Edwards v. Aguillard decision on 19 June 1987, that it was unconstitutional to teach creationism in schools.
A short note on terminology
In the passage cited above, Miller implies that all Intelligent Design proponents are creationists. He knows perfectly well that this is not true: Professor Michael Behe, who has debated Miller previously, is a believer in common descent, which means that he accepts some form of evolution. As for Miller, it could be argued that he believes in a form of Intelligent Design, except that His Creator is scientifically undetectable. Chris Dunford, in his thoughtful review of Miller’s book, Finding Darwin’s Good, over at Darwinwatch, summarizes Miller’s position as follows: “God can and does intervene in the operation of the material world, but only rarely and then only at the indeterminate sub-atomic level of reality, in order to remain scientifically undetectable to his sentient creatures.” I have to ask: is there really such a huge intellectual divide between Intelligent Design theorists who accept common descent (as I happen to do) and evolutionists like Miller who accept the possibility of Divine intervention, so long as it’s invisible to us?
The smoking gun that refutes Miller’s claims
Profesor Miller is a supporter of the National Council for Science Education (NCSE), as well as a recipient of its Friend of Darwin award. Prominently featured on an NCSE Website, which Professor Miller is presumably aware of, is the marketing letter from the Foundation for Thought and Ethics to prospective publishers, which was written on May 15, 1987 (see p. 14), over one month before the Supreme Court made its ruling in the Edwards v. Aguillard decision. The letter includes the following two paragraphs:
Our manuscript is entitled Biology and Origins. From the project’s inception, our authors recognized such a book could not sidestep the valid criticisms of creation, but must take them seriously, treating the subject with a sensitive and critical approach. At the same time, the book will not be subject to the major criticism of creation, that the supernatural lies outside of science, because its central statement is that scientific evidence points to an intelligent cause, but that science is silent as to whether that intelligence is within or beyond the material universe. So the book is not appealing to the supernatural.
Biology and Origins does not duplicate either general science or biology textbooks. It has been authored by highly gifted and credentialed, previously published authors of major works of biology (Dean Kenyan, co-author of Biochemical Predestination, New York: McGraw Hill, 1969 and P. William Davis, co-author of World of Biology, Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders & Co., 1985). The manuscript has also been evaluated by dozens of reputable scientists of both evolution and creation persuasions. In addition, the authors’ perspective is substantially informed by the philosophy of science to handle tricky questions clearly and in a manner consistent with sound scientific methodology.
The foregoing passage gives the lie to Miller’s claim that the book was originally intended to promote belief in a supernatural Deity, as well as Miller’s malicious assertion (made in his interview) that the authors of the book, who were highly regarded biologists, used “every creationist trick … to try to undermine the theory of evolution.”
The Academic Editor of Pandas rejected scientific arguments for the supernatural, one year before the Edwards decision
There’s more. Dr. Charles Thaxton, who was the lead author of the best-selling book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (Philosophical Library, New York, NY, 1984; available online here), was the Academic Editor of Of Pandas and People. A full year before the Edwards case of 1987, which outlawed the teaching of creation science in public schools, Dr. Thaxton gave a speech in which he made it clear that design in nature was real, but did not entail creationism or creation science. Jon Buell of the Foundation for Thought and Ethics takes up the story in his article, The Untold Story of the Kitzmiller Trial (2013):
In 1986, Thaxton developed a paper titled Origin Science: New Rules, New Tools for the Evolution Debate, for circulation during the Annual Meeting of the American Scientific Affiliation at Houghton College in New York (see Timeline, Exhibit C). It reflects a rigorous, judicious, and disciplined approach to the origin of life:
With the new data from molecular biology we can now argue for an intelligent cause at the origin of life based on the analogy between the DNA code and a written language. Notice I did not say we can argue for the divine creation of life. Many creationists make the mistake of jumping from the event under investigation straight to the biblical God. From scientific data alone we can conclude only that a plausible explanation of the event is a primary cause. We cannot identify that cause any further and say whether it is transcendent or immanent, whether it is the biblical God or some other intelligent being. I cannot look at the DNA molecule and say, God made that. What I can say is that, given the structure of a DNA molecule, it is certainly plausible to conclude that it was made by an intelligent agent. We may be able to identify that agent in greater detail by other arguments — by philosophical or theological ones, for example — but from scientific data alone we can argue only to a primary cause.(17)
Note that he used a number of terms, “intelligent cause,” “primary cause,” “intelligent being,” “intelligent agent.” Recall the chronological order of Judge Jones’ central narrative, a chronological order that is the indispensable lynchpin to his assertion that the term intelligent design replaced creation science “after the Supreme Court’s important Edwards decision“(18) and notice that the Thaxton paper in which this paragraph appears was delivered in 1986, not the year after the Edwards decision, but the year before it.… So nearly twenty years before Kitzmiller and a year before Edwards, the Academic Editor of Pandas and the guiding figure in its line of argument, expression, and writing, was making clear his perception that design in nature was real but did not entail creationism or creation science. …
Thus, as the timeline indicates, allegations of hasty changes said to have been made in drafts of Pandas in the wake of the Edwards ruling fall flat and are simply without merit (see Exhibit C). (2013, pp. 4-5)
Barbara Forrest’s curious elision
Barbara Forrest, participating in the “Creation and Evolution” panel at CSICON 2011 in New Orleans, LA, USA. Image courtesy of B.D. Engler and Wikipedia.
In his interview with Samuel Varg, Professor Kenneth Miller praised the work of philosophy professor Barbara Forrest. In her Expert Witness Report for the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial (April 1, 2005), she portrayed Charles Thaxton, the main author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin, as a scientific proponent of supernatural creation:
According to ID leader William Dembski, “The Intelligent Design movement begins with the work of Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, Michael Denton, Dean Kenyon, and Phillip Johnson.”(50) Dembski cites as a seminal publication Thaxton’s 1984 book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin where, arguing for “Special Creation by a Creator beyond the Cosmos,” Thaxton asserts that “Special Creation … [holds] that the source which produced life was intelligent.”(51) (emphasis in original)
(2005, p. 15)
Any person reading this passage would immediately infer that Thaxton believes that the science of Intelligent Design can be used to argue for the existence of “a Creator beyond the Cosmos” – in other words, a supernatural Creator. Such a person would be entirely wrong: we’ve already seen that in a speech given in 1986, Thaxton plainly stated, “Notice I did not say we can argue for the divine creation of life,” and as we shall see below, Thaxton also asserted in his 1984 book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin, that no such inference can be made on scientific grounds. Professor Barbara Forrest has mis-characterized Thaxton’s position.
Curious about the ellipsis in the quote from Thaxton above, I decided to look up the relevant passage in the online version of Charles Thaxton’s book, The Mystery of Life’s Origin: Reassessing Current Theories (Philosophical Library, New York, NY, 1984). The quote, which is taken from the Epilogue of the book, can be found on page 200. First, let’s have a look at the first paragraph of the Epilogue, on page 188 of the book:
In the introductory chapter, we stated our hope that criticism of current theories of the origin of life would prove to be a first step towards a more satisfactory theory of origins. No consideration, however, was given to alternatives. So in this epilogue we will consider five alternative views which have been mentioned in the literature on the origin of life. These are:
1. New natural laws
3. Directed Panspermia
4. Special Creation by a creator within the cosmos
5. Special Creation by a Creator beyond the cosmos
The sheer breadth of the hypotheses listed in the Epilogue shows that Thaxton is willing to consider all possibilities. What is especially interesting, however, is that for Thaxton, the term “Special Creation” does not imply supernatural creation, as Thaxton grants that it may be the work of either “a creator within the cosmos” or “a Creator beyond the cosmos.”
And now we come to the passage on page 200. The green highlighting shows the words from Thaxton’s book that Barbara Forrest left out of her Special Report, when describing his views:
In agreement with the views of abiogenesis, and the foregoing views of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, Special Creation by a Creator beyond the cosmos holds that there was once a time in the past when matter was concentrated in a simple arrangement, inert and lifeless. Then at a later time matter was in the state of biological specificity sufficient for bearing and sustaining life. Special Creation (whether from within the cosmos or beyond it) differs from abiogenesis in holding that the source which produced life was intelligent. (Thaxton et al., 1984, p. 200)
As we can see, for Thaxton, the term “Special Creator” does not necessarily mean a supernatural Being, as he allows that a Special Creator may come from within the cosmos. The foregoing quote demonstrates that the property which distinguishes a Special Creator is that of intelligence, rather than transcendence.
Towards the end of his book, Thaxton acknowledges that science cannot prove that an intelligent Creator actually produced life; what it can show is that the hypothesis of an intelligent Creator is highly plausible.
It is doubtful that any would deny that an intelligent Creator could conceivably prepare Earth with oxidizing conditions and create life. And of course the data discussed above and consistent (and compatible) with this view of Special Creation. What we would like to know, of course, is whether an intelligent Creator did create life. The question, unfortunately, is beyond the power of science to answer. Another question which can be answered, however, is whether such a view as Special Creation is plausible. (Thaxton et al., 1984, p. 210)
Sad to say, the damaging impression left by Professor Forrest’s Expert Witness Report of 2005 still lingers to this day. Wikipedia, in its article on Charles Thaxton, makes the following misleading statement about Thaxton’s book, implying that he attempts to argue on scientific grounds for the existence of a supernatural Creator of life:
In The Mystery of Life’s Origin, Thaxton argues for “Special Creation by a Creator beyond the Cosmos”, and asserts that Special Creation holds “that the source that produced life was intelligent”.
In a footnote, Wikipedia cites Barbara Forrest’s Expert Report as its source, although it gets the date of the report wrong, listing it as April 1, 2007, instead of April 1, 2005. It is a great pity that Professor Forrest has not corrected this mistake in her report.
Why did early drafts of Of Pandas and People use the term “creation”?
Giant panda at Ocean Park, Hong Kong. Image courtesy of J. Patrick Fischer and Wikipedia.
In his monograph, The Untold Story of the Kitzmiller Trial (2013), Jon Buell also explains why the early drafts of the book, Of Pandas and People used the term “creation”, instead of “Intelligent Design”:
But let’s turn briefly to address four specific terms Judge Jones cites in his decision. The first of these is “creation science.” Why was this term used in early drafts of some chapters of Pandas [Of Pandas and People – VJT] when, as claimed above, we had disavowed its use? Here is the answer: FTE brought Percival Davis and Dean Kenyon to Dallas, Texas for a meeting on August 18-19, 1982, to plan the project. Early in the discussions, Thaxton described the approach taken by Mystery [The Mystery of Life’s Origin – VJT] and stated that FTE’s vision for the biology book was to treat biological origins in much the same way he and his co-authors had treated the origin of life itself in Mystery. (Having written the Foreword to Mystery, Prof. Kenyon was already very familiar with it.)
The project planning for Pandas exceeded the time available, leaving portions to be completed from three separate locations. Without the benefit of conceptual language that could only be worked out later, the new band of authors and editors dispersed, agreeing that Percival Davis would clarify his ideas in writing and send them to FTE. While Davis used the terms “creation science” and “creationism” in a document fleshing out his idea, FTE chose not to use them or the often articulated concept behind them. The legal relationship of the authors to FTE was that of contract labor. It was a “work made for hire,” so FTE was free to leave these terms in place on a temporary basis while it thrashed out the final conceptual language that ultimately would replace them. What FTE valued most in Davis’s work was his knowledge of biology and distinguished track record. He had coauthored with Eldra Solomon and Harvard biologist Claude Villee the best-selling college biology textbook for biology majors of the day, Biology, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1989), originally titled The World of Biology, when published by McGraw-Hill.(20) His in-depth knowledge of biology across a wide range of topics was prodigious, and his skill and reputation as a writer were beyond dispute. We were pleased to have his participation.
Therefore, just as McGraw-Hill and W.B. Saunders had happily accepted Davis’s work even though he didn’t accept evolution, so too FTE decided to let his chapters out for review with the simple stipulation that the terms “creationism” and “creation science” would be replaced once an epistemologically sound case was developed, subjected to authoritative criticism, and refined. Soon after the original drafts were sent to us, dozens of copies were mailed to readers. (Note that prior to that time, substituting intermediate terms would, at best, have been cumbersome, further complicating an already complex process that involved many readers.) Thus when Davis’s original work arrived, we welcomed the relevant biological material, and later when the epistemological process and sound terminology were determined, they were incorporated to better communicate intelligent design. It is for this reason that Judge Jones’ claim about the identical definitions for creation science and intelligent design in early drafts is both true and yet utterly unastonishing. Judge Jones would have had access to these facts had he not excluded FTE from the trial. (2013, pp. 5-6, emphases mine – VJT.)
How the term “Intelligent Design” came to be adopted
Finally, Jon Buell explains how the decision was made, back in 1986, to adopt the term “Intelligent Design”:
In the fall of 1986, Stephen Meyer arrived at Cambridge University, where he would study the history and philosophy of science under the tutelage of Dutch scholar, Harmke Kamminga, an authority on the history of origin of life studies. At about the same time, Charles’ [i.e. Charles Thaxton’s – VJT] discussions with others about the now crystallized epistemological approach and the most fitting terminology to represent it came to a conclusion, a conclusion soon to become widely known. The long “penciled in” name could now be written in ink. On my Thursday, September 25, 1986, “priority list,” I jotted the following note as we spoke: “Call CT – Intell. Design in B” (see Exhibit F). My memory of this phone conversation with Charles has been indelible; it brought to a conclusion the lengthy discussion in search of the right terminology to define and convey the concepts hammered out over the six previous years. As my notation attests, the agreement on the name intelligent design occurred almost three months before argument of Edwards was even undertaken by the Supreme Court, and nine months before the decision came down. (2013, p. 13, emphases mine – VJT.)
Of Pandas and People explicitly rejects scientific arguments for the supernatural
Another telling fact which Professor Miller omitted to mention in his interview with Samuel Varg is that the Intelligent Design textbook, Of Pandas and People, clearly states that science is unable to demonstrate the existence of a supernatural Being, as the following quotes show (emphases are mine):
“If science is based upon experience, then science tells us the
message encoded in DNA must have originated from an intelligent cause. But what kind of intelligent agent was it? On its own, science cannot answer this question; it must leave it to religion and philosophy. But that should not prevent science from acknowledging evidences for an intelligent cause origin wherever they may exist. This is no different, really, than if we discovered life did result from natural causes. We still would not know, from science, if the natural cause was all that was involved, or if the ultimate explanation was beyond nature, and using the natural cause.”
(Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed., 1993, p. 7)
“Today we recognize that appeals to intelligent design may be considered in science, as illustrated by current NASA search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). Archaeology has pioneered the development of methods for distinguishing the effects of natural and intelligent causes. We should recognize, however, that if we go further, and conclude that the intelligence responsible for biological origins is outside the universe (supernatural) or within it, we do so without the help of science.”
(Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed., 1993, pp. 126-127)
What could possibly be plainer than that?
Despite its metaphysical limitations, science can help Intelligent Design proponents to make a strong case that living things are the work of a Superior Intelligence, as the book argues:
“Since both written language and DNA have that telltale property of information carried along by specific sequence of ‘words’ and since intelligence is known to produce written language, is it not reasonable to identify the cause of the DNA’s information as an intelligence too?”
(Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed., 1993, p. 57)
“On the other hand, the experimental work on the origin of life and the molecular biology of living cells is consistent with the hypothesis of intelligent design. What makes this interpretation so compelling is the amazing correlation between the structure of informational molecules (DNA, protein) and our universal experience that such sequences are the result of intelligent causes. This parallel suggests that life itself origin to a master intellect.”
(Of Pandas and People, 2nd ed., 1993, p. 58)
Does Intelligent Design imply a supernatural Creator? The flaw in Miller’s argument
Judge John E. Jones III, who presided in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial. Image courtesy of Shadowlink1014 and Wikipedia.
In his interview with Samuel Varg, Professor Kenneth Miller advanced the following argument, in order to demonstrate that Intelligent Design implies belief in a supernatural Creator:
If one says that the proteins that clot our blood were designed, or the animals that existed during the Cambrian period of geology were designed, one does not just mean that they were designed. One means that they were created, or brought into existence, by a power acting outside of Nature, therefore a Supernatural Power. So, taken at face value, Intelligent Design is actually a theory of Special Creationism.
Judge Jones (pictured above), who presided over the Kitzmiller vs. Dover trial, put forward substantially the same argument in his Opinion (p. 82), when he took exception to the following passage from Of Pandas and People:
Darwinists object to the view of intelligent design because it does not give a natural cause explanation of how the various forms of life started in the first place. Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly, through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact – fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc. – (P-11 at 99-100. Emphasis mine – VJT.)
“Stated another way,” Judge Jones continues, “ID posits that animals did not evolve naturally through evolutionary means but were created abruptly by a non-natural, or supernatural, designer.” (Kitzmiller v. Dover, 400 F.Supp.2d 707, 722. M.D. Pa. 2005.)
But as Jon Buell points out in his monograph, the judge drew an unwarranted conclusion in the passage quoted above. What the judge should have said was: “ID posits that animals did not evolve naturally, purely through evolutionary means, but were (to at least some degree) produced artificially, by some intelligent being.”
Notice that “supernatural” is Judge Jones’s term, not Pandas’. So the Judge ignores the text of Pandas and invokes in its place the metaphysical dichotomy of natural cause versus supernatural cause: if something is not natural, it must be supernatural. Of course, the term natural is often opposed to the term supernatural in this way. But there is another more relevant usage of the term natural. In the empirically limited frame of reference that must be adhered to in science and that was therefore employed throughout Pandas, the two opposing categories of causes are natural and intelligent (or natural and artificial), but not natural and supernatural. (2013, p. 9.)
Designers often make use of pre-existing materials: Another reason why design does not imply creation
God the geometer. Science, and particularly geometry and astronomy, was linked directly to the divine for most medieval scholars. The compass in this 13th century manuscript (c. 1220-1230) is a symbol of God’s act of Creation. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
I have to say I find it amusing that Professor Miller believes that Intelligent Design implies that living things (or their constituent parts) “were created, or brought into existence, by a power acting outside of Nature,” while other critics of ID, including the Thomist philosopher Edward Feser and history professor William E. Carroll, argue the reverse: Intelligent Design, they say, does not point to an ex nihilo Creator but to a mere Demiurge, who imposes forms on pre-existing matter. Precisely for that reason, these critics reject Intelligent Design as bad theology. The word “creation,” they say, should be reserved either for making something ex nihilo, or conserving it in existence.
So who’s right here? Neither Miller nor Feser is correct, simply because the term “design” is quite compatible with any kind of intelligent activity which results in the production of a new form. This activity may involve making use of pre-existing material, or it may not. Personally, I prefer to use the terms “produce” and/or “generate” to describe the work of a designer who imposes new forms, structures or patterns on pre-existing matter, and the term “create” to describe the work of a designer (e.g. a musical composer) who requires no raw material to start with.
The Discovery Institute does not advocate the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools
Finally, I would like to point out that the Discovery Institute’s science education policy (February 11, 2013) makes it quite clear that it opposes the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools (emphases mine – VJT):
What does the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture recommend for science education curriculum?
As a matter of public policy, Discovery Institute opposes any effort to require the teaching of intelligent design by school districts or state boards of education. Attempts to mandate teaching about intelligent design only politicize the theory and will hinder fair and open discussion of the merits of the theory among scholars and within the scientific community. Furthermore, most teachers at the present time do not know enough about intelligent design to teach about it accurately and objectively.
Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.
Discovery Institute believes that a curriculum that aims to provide students with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of neo-Darwinian and chemical evolutionary theories (rather than teaching an alternative theory, such as intelligent design) represents a common ground approach that all reasonable citizens can agree on.
A final thought
Astronomer and cosmologist Alexander Vilenkin at Harvard University. Image courtesy of Lubos Motl and Wikipedia.
At the present time, science is unable to experimentally determine whether there is anything outside the universe in which we live. Some scientists believe that this universe is part of a much bigger multiverse, which may be finite or infinite.
Suppose, however, that it were one day possible to demonstrate that the cosmos – by which I mean the whole of physical reality – was bounded in size and that it had a beginning. Suppose also that the cosmos exhibited features – such as the fine-tuning of its most fundamental constants – which made it reasonable for scientists to infer that it was a put-up job, designed by Someone. Would science then have evidence for the supernatural? Personally, I would say yes: I can’t see what else you could call a Reality outside the realm of the physical, which caused the entire cosmos to come into existence.
At the present time, however, we have no scientific evidence that the cosmos is finite, and although some cosmologists, such as Alexander Vilenkin (pictured above), argue that even the multiverse must have had a beginning, others, such as Alan Guth, disagree. However, fine-tuning proponent Robin Collins has persuasively argued in his paper, The Teleological Argument, that even a multiverse would itself need to be fine-tuned, in order to generate even one life-permitting universe like our own. Thus the evidence seems to point towards an immaterial Designer of the cosmos, but at the present time, it is not yet scientifically established conclusion.
As far as the design of life is concerned, we have no scientific evidence whatsoever that only a Supernatural Being could have designed the first living cell, or produced the Cambrian explosion. From a purely scientific standpoint, it remains possible that these effects were produced by aliens.
In his interview with Samuel Varg, Professor Miller seemed to be very worried about the possibility of Intelligent Design going “mainstream” in Europe. Miller’s illogical remarks about ID implying belief in a supernatural Creator, and his absurd claim that the authors of Of Pandas and People engaged in a systematic cover-up designed to hoodwink the American people about their true objectives, indicate that he is prepared to pull out all stops in order to prevent this from happening. It is to be hoped that clear-sighted people will see through this baloney, and investigate the evidence for themselves, by consulting recently published books, such as Dr. Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, which carefully lay out the case for Intelligent Design. In the end, reason will prevail.