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Sunday, September 10, 2006

How pro-Darwin Catholic biochemist Ken Miller lost favour - and you can too!

Bill Dembski noted that the inimitable PZ Myers has attacked Ken Miller, anti-ID Catholic poster boy, for thinking there is any evidence for theism.

I agree that PZ is having another junior moment, but it is nonetheless instructive.

National Center for Science Education's Eugenie Scott, who knows more about retailing crude Darwinism to middle American shopaholics than anyone, has insisted, “One clergyman with a backward collar is worth two biologists at a school board meeting any day!” (Yes, she really told Science and Theology News that in April, 2002. I would be curious to know if she would say the same thing in the same terms today.)

When I first started writing By Design or by Chance?"my recent book on why there is an intelligent design controversy in North America today, I found constitutional lawyer Phillip Johnson’s comments on theistic evolution (the point of view Miller espouses) illuminating. Johnson is the godfather of the ID guys, but don’t let that deter you. He wrote that it is culturally okay to say

As a Christian, I believe by faith that God is responsible for evolution.


It is emphatically not acceptable to say, "As a scientist, I see evidence that organisms were designed by a preexisting intelligence, and therefore other objective observers should also infer the existence of a designer."


The former statement is within the bounds of methodological naturalism, and most scientific naturalists will interpret it to mean nothing more than 'It gives me comfort to believe in God, and so I will.' The latter statement brings the designer into the territory of objective reality, and that is what methodological naturalism forbids.

Miller, alas, seems to have drawn some conclusions from believing in God that do not amount simply to joining a mob against ID - hence genuine Darwinists attack him.

But what intrigued me most about Johnson's analysis was his thoughts on the hatred directed against ID biochemist Michael Behe [break here]

Behe wrote, in Darwin's Black Box ,

For the record, I have no reason to doubt that the universe is the billions of years old that physicists say it is. I find the idea of common descent (that all organisms share a common ancestor) fairly convincing, and have no particular reason to doubt it. Although Darwin’s mechanism—natural selection working on variation—might explain many things, however, I do not believe it explains molecular life.

That would seem to make him a theistic evolutionist. But as Johnson notes at the beginning of the passage quoted above, that is not what "theistic evolution" currently means:

The defining characteristic of theistic evolution, however, is that it accepts methodological naturalism and confines the theistic element to the subjective area of “religious belief.”

In other words, theistic evolution today means believing things for which there is no evidence. Behe's sin is that he thinks he has evidence. He is not supposed to have evidence; he is only supposed to reassure pious old ladies that no matter what is happening in the world of science, everything is just fine, just fine, just fine.

It would also help if he would wear fake hair and a slick preacher suit instead of having the fashion sense of a research biochemist. But First Things first.

As I like to say, no wonder there is an intelligent design controversy.
If you like this blog, check out my book on the intelligent design controversy, By Design or by Chance?. You can read excerpts as well.

Are you looking for one of the following stories?

A summary of tech guru George Gilder's arguments for ID and against Darwinism

A critical look at why March of the Penguins was thought to be an ID film.

A summary of recent opinion columns on the ID controversy

A summary of recent polls of US public opinion on the ID controversy

A summary of the Catholic Church's entry into the controversy, essentially on the side of ID.

O'Leary's intro to non-Darwinian agnostic philosopher David Stove’s critique of Darwinism.

An ID Timeline: The ID folk seem always to win when they lose.

O’Leary’s comments on Francis Beckwith, a Dembski associate, being denied tenure at Baylor.

Why origin of life is such a difficult problem.
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