University News

Ken Miller ’70 P’02: skeptical, inquiring

By
Contributing Writer

Professor of Biology Ken Miller ’70 P’02 was elected this month to join the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, largely because of his defense of Darwin’s evolution theory against claims of creationism. Founded in 1976, the committee applies science and the scientific method to debunk pseudoscientific claims, Miller said.

The committee, which publishes the magazine Skeptical Inquirer, was founded in response to burgeoning interest in the paranormal throughout the 1970s. According to Miller, the committee works to invalidate theories such as  extrasensory perception, psychic powers, the presence of space aliens, mysticism and other theories about the supernatural.

The letter the group sent to Miller inviting him to become a fellow of the committee read, “Members of the committee have long been impressed with your commitment to science, rational inquiry, and public education.” Miller has published two well-known books about evolution, and co-authored a biology textbook that, according to Miller, 30 to 40 percent of U.S. high schools use.

“I have watched (Miller’s) career with admiration,” said Kendrick Frazier, the editor of Skeptical Inquirer. “He has been an effective proponent of good science and the teaching of evolution and an equally extraordinarily effective opponent of bad science and efforts to introduce creationism into the classroom and the public arena.” 

Miller said he was extremely pleased to be chosen as one of the committee’s 16 fellows.

Although his position does not have any outlined responsibilities, Miller said it is a huge honor and he sees himself becoming involved in the committee’s conferences and the production of newsletters and articles.

According to Miller, the most public way he has promoted evolution was by testifying in the 2005 federal court case Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, which helped prevent the Dover school board from presenting intelligent design theory as a scientific alternative to evolution after 11 parents sued the Dover school board.

Miller said he thinks he was chosen to be the lead witness because of his “long history of debating, successfully, scientific creation to critics of evolution.” In his testimony, Miller said he not only “defined to the court what science is and what goes into a biology curriculum and textbook,” but also anticipated what the defendants would say and then stated why their argument was wrong.

Massimo Pigliucci, another defender of evolution who shares similar interests with Miller and has connections to Brown, was also named to the committee. Now chair of the department of philosophy at CUNY-Lehman College, Pigliucci did post-doctoral work in Ecology and Evolutionat Brown. “It has been exciting to fight next to Ken in this never-ending battle against nonsense and superstition,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.