University News

Miller reflects on intelligent design case

11 years after historic trial shut down creationist curriculum, Miller weighs in on science, religion

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, February 26, 2016

During his 2005 testimony in Kitzmiller v. Dover, Professor of Biology Kenneth Miller ’70 P’02 defended the teaching of evolution in classrooms.

Kenneth Miller ’70 P’02, professor of biology, spoke at the Feb. 13 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington D.C., where he reviewed the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case, in which he testified as an expert witness. The historic ruling condemns the teaching of intelligent design in public schools as unconstitutional.

When the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania demanded that intelligent design be included in biology classes, the district’s teachers refused to comply. In response, the school board formulated a brief lesson on intelligent design.

“One day, they sent the assistant superintendent of schools into all the biology classrooms to teach the lesson while the teachers literally, physically stood outside in the hallway,” Miller said.

Eleven parents promptly filed a First Amendment lawsuit, and “legal forces lined up on both sides of the case,” Miller said. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Pepper Hamilton firm joined the side of the parents, while the Thomas More Law Center offered to represent the school board.

Miller was asked to be an expert witness in the case, so he spent the first two days of the Sept. 2005 trial being cross-examined on the stand. His testimony was designed to attack the arguments of opponents before they even spoke in court, he said. An author of the best-selling biology textbooks in the country, Miller had previously testified in a Georgia case about stickers placed on his textbooks that cautioned students to think critically about the theory of evolution presented in the book.

“Parts of it were funny. Several people representing the school board obviously perjured themselves,” Miller said. “Any pretense that intelligent design might have had to be a scientific theory had fallen apart — everyone in the courtroom knew it.”

The testimony presented by scientists at the trial was very convincing, said Cornelia Dean, visiting lecturer in environmental studies and a former science editor for the New York Times. “It’s important for people to stand up against the deliberate embrace of ignorance,” she added.

The news of the judge’s ruling reached Miller while he was on a train months later. “The judge swung for the fences and he basically said intelligent design is entirely a religious idea — it cannot disentangle itself from its religious roots, and therefore it’s constitutionally impermissible,” Miller said.

After a few minutes, he realized his phone conversation was “loud and obnoxious” on the crowded train car, but several passengers expressed interest in the news. He ended up “giving a little lecture to about ten people in the back of one of the cars of the Northeast Regional.”

“Judge Jones wanted to write a decision that would settle this issue,” Dean said.

“He wanted to leave no room for argument or ambiguity, (saying) as explicitly as possible that creationism or intelligent design or any of its ideological cousins are religious ideas that have no place in a publicly finessed science classroom,” Dean said. 

“Many people on the other side thought they could kill discussion about the idea of intelligent design by using a federal judge,” said John West, vice president of the Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design. “Well, this is America. You don’t kill ideas through court decrees. People still can discuss them,” he added.

The Discovery Institute encourages teachers to educate students about the current state of science — which may touch on intelligent design — and does “not teach Darwinian theory in some sort of dogmatic manner,” West said. “All we’re asking for in K-12 public education is to give teachers the right and the encouragement to be able to objectively discuss the sort of disputes that are already in the mainstream science journals,” he added.

Science and religious faith are not always seen as compatible, but Miller disagrees with this idea. “The stereotype is stronger among secular people in the United States than it is among religious people that science and religion are unalterably in conflict, but I don’t think they are.”

Dean also believes in the compatibility of science and religious faith. She noted the argument made by Stephen Gould in his book “Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life,” which asserts that “there are questions that religion can answer for us, and there are questions science can answer for us, and those groups of questions do not overlap,” Dean said. “That way is a recipe for happiness.”

“Religious faith and science are not enemies. I think that they’re friends, and I think they’re harmonious,” West said.

“The Kitzmiller case was the first time in a long time that a lot of issues that had been bubbling underneath the surface finally broke out and got national attention,” said Carl Zimmer, columnist for the New York Times and author of 12 science books. “One of the good things that came out of the case was actually that some people became aware of the really interesting scientific research that does show how people evolved,” he added.

After the Kitzmiller case, “reporters started to really appreciate that science isn’t just ‘he said, she said,’” Zimmer added. “You actually have to dig deeper and understand what scientists really have figured out — what is true and what isn’t true.”

“The Dover case did not kill off interest in intelligent design,” West said. “If anything, it was like throwing gasoline on the fire. We’ve seen even more interest.”

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32 Comments

  1. Good article, but I doubt he said “…publicly finessed…”

  2. “‘The Dover case did not kill off interest in intelligent design,’ West said. ‘If anything, it was like throwing gasoline on the fire. We’ve seen even more interest.'”

    Au contraire. Typical deceitful creationist spin. In regard to science, creationists have been trying to sell snake oil for several decades, and West continues this time-honored creationist tradition. The Discovery Institute proclaimed that they would “see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory” within five years (this was back in 1999), and “see intelligent design as the dominant perspective in science” within twenty years. Yet here we are almost twenty years later and “intelligent design theory” still isn’t even a scientific theory, let alone having any kind of scientific research program. We’re still waiting, and the reason we are still waiting – and would be long since dead if we were gullible enough to have held our breaths – is because intelligent design does not and never did really have anything to do with science in the first place, but is a creationist charade employed to try to subvert the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment in order to push religious beliefs on unsuspecting children in public school science classes.

    Now, there is no doubt that the Dover case “threw gasoline on the fire” of religious *politics* for creationists, precisely because creationists have every intention of trying to ignore the Establishment Clause wherever they think they can get away with it. Which is what we have seen in isolated cases around the country – but that isn’t science and has nothing to do with science – religious zealot teachers pushing religion-based pseudoscience attacks against science in public schools isn’t scientific research.

    And West’s bit about “All we’re asking for in K-12 public education is to give teachers the right and the encouragement to be able to objectively discuss the sort of disputes that are already in the mainstream science journals” is yet another example of the standard falsehoods creationists push, since in fact it is not “the sort of disputes that are already in the mainstream science journals” that these creationists want to inject, but the sorts of bogus religion-based snake oil “controversies” that the creationist pseudoscience rhetoric is permeated with. Indeed – exactly this kind of creationist charade was covered in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial – and yet here we are ten years later with the creationists, such as West, still pushing the exact same scam.

    Wedge Strategy (Discovery Institute)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wedge_strategy

  3. If one reads what the Discovery Institute puts out almost on a daily basis they still are throwing a hissy fit over Dover. Still no research, still no attempt at research, still no proposed research, still nothing on falsification, still no peer review, still no positive evidence. 10 years after Dover and literally nothing new – the same old discredited dishonest nonsense.

    • They have changed. They push scientific freedom and strengths and weaknesses instead of ID so as to push creationism through any even more obscure backdoor.

  4. The Dover decision was exceptional overreach for a man totally unqualified to define science and religion outside his own family unit. Intelligent design remains a body of scientific evidence and inconvenient questioning to the “establishment” community of Darwinian disciples. They are the only rejectors of information and probability math as real characteristics of our universe. Where does the information content in living things come from? Nothing in the Darwinian faith system gives any answer, so wise men will continue to see the answer wherever the evidence leads them. Government owned, union run schools should be open minded to possible causes for effects observed by all.

    • ID is a pack of lies and will never rise to the level of science.

      If you want ID to be science they have to name their mysterious creator, know his methods then compare that to Evolution’s methods and see which fits the evidence best. This will never happen.

      The ‘information’ comes from point mutation on the genome and natural selection … try finding out about this thing you have been told to hate. It is the scientific theory of speciation nothing to do with universe either.

      • “ID is a pack of lies and will never rise to the level of science. If you want ID to be science they have to name their mysterious creator, know his methods then compare that to Evolution’s methods and see which fits the evidence best. This will never happen.”

        WOW – so much rank ignorance in less than 50 words. I wouldn’t have thought it possible but I stand corrected!

        • So no counter argument then. Its like you can’t defend creationist lies. Don’t worry …no one can.

          • You may remain in Fantasy Land spiked with Delusional Rum if you like. “Creationist Lies” (as you call them) need not be defended because they aren’t lies (except to the likes of you, of course).

            Here, try this on for size: since Evolution is so “superior” and “scientific” and all that jazz then why don’t you post here and now the methods by which life, consciousness and volitional intelligence arose from abiotic chemicals. Go ahead, we’re waiting. If by some miracle you’re able to do that then be sure to stop by Stockholm for your well-deserved Nobel Prize – heck, they’ll give you two. My entire next year’s salary says that Hell will freeze over before you deliver.

          • ID is not science …… The Discovery Institute do not do any science …. they write books to sell to the gullible public.

            Again Evolution is the scientific theory of speciation only.

            Intellect has obvious evolutionary advantages.

            Consciousness is framework of thoughts on which address other thoughts.

            And abiogenesis and nothing to do with evolution.

            Now lets see you explanation? Would it be “goddidit”.

          • Your “answers” are nothing but unsubstantiated assertions.
            So far I’m batting one-thousand.

            No, Evolution is far, FAR more than just a theory of speciation.
            Otherwise, there would never have been a Dover or any dispute.

            Intellect definitely has obvious advantages but the question asked was, SHOW HOW LIFE, CONSCIOUSNESS AND INTELLECT ARISES FROM ABIOTIC CHEMICALS (without any guidance).

            Finally, you people have the nasty habit of wanting to hide the bull elephant under the 2-by-4 carpet. You CANNOT have any kind of “Evolution” unless you FIRST have life. The Theory of Evolution proposes that life arose from lifeless chemicals.

            “God did it” … well, God is a purposeful being and has the direction and intellect to create life, consciousness, and so on. For you people it’s “NATUREDIDIT” **without** intellect, purpose or anything. Who requires a greater miracle – us or you? Be honest …

          • Evolution was not on trial in Dover. Dover was about people claiming ID is science and not thinly disguised creationism. The heavy hitters in ID land all got a say and they were found wanting.

            Evolution IS the scientific theory of speciation no matter what you WANT it to be. It is not about origins.

            Abiogenesis is concerned with origins and there is no singular widely accepted scientific theory on that. Still we know that amino acids naturally form and can even be observed in space so it is not a big leap to the first cell.

            Inserting god into this gap is dangerous as when the gap closes your god gets squashed … and you are left with denying reality which always creates good agnostics and atheists.

            You see science was no problem saying “I don’t know” unlike say the arrogant creationist who claims to know it all ….but when asked how has only “goddidit”.

            You can’t push god as an agency for anything unless you have some real proof of such a being. So before you start hyperventilating about LIFE try providing some evidence for this magic, invisible god.

          • Jorge1927 says:

            “Evolution was not on trial in Dover. Dover was about people claiming ID is science and not thinly disguised creationism. The heavy hitters in ID land all got a say and they were found wanting.”
            ***************
            Fine, you are entitled to your opinion, however wrong that opinion may be. As for the “heavy hitters” – they undoubtedly went into Dover unprepared in more ways than one. As I had stated in a previous post, I had *predicted* the results.

            ***************

            “Evolution IS the scientific theory of speciation no matter what you WANT it to be. It is not about origins.”
            ***************
            And no matter how hard you may try you won’t get those of us that know the score to ignore the bull elephant in the room. Having been at this for decades, I am well aware of the strategy of folks like yourself to try to pooh-pooh the issue of origins. The General Theory of Evolution does indeed assume a “NatureDidIt” answer to origins. If you can’t admit to that then you are like Ken Miller and the rest – intellectually dishonest.
            ***************

            “Abiogenesis is concerned with origins and there is no singular widely accepted scientific theory on that. Still we know that amino acids naturally form and can even be observed in space so it is not a big leap to the first cell.”
            **********************
            I’ll be a nice guy and grant that you are merely ignorant of the facts. What I mean is, to say (as you do) that “amino acids naturally form … so it is not a big leap to the first cell” is like saying, “we know that minerals naturally clump together and so it is not a big leap to a modern mega-metropolis complete with all infrastructure.” Except that the cell is *thousands* of times more complex than a giant mega-metropolis… thousands of times more complex than the most advanced supercomputer. Get the picture?
            **********************

            “Inserting god into this gap is dangerous as when the gap
            closes your god its squashed … and you are left with denying reality which always creates good agnostics and atheists.”
            ************************
            Only if done ignorantly / improperly — as most people do.
            ***********************

            “You see science was no problem saying “I don’t know” unlike say the arrogant creationist who claims to know it all ….but when asked how has only “goddidit”.”
            ***********************
            The question you ask stems from ignorance. [By the way, “ignorance is not “stupidity” – ignorance is simply that the person does not know]. Also, I see the double standard rear its ugly head as usually occurs. Explaining: we do not know how God did it and that makes us “blind, fanatical religious nuts”. But YOU people can say, “We don’t know how Nature did it” and that makes you “rational scientists”. Can you not spot the double-standard hypocrisy here?

            ***********************

            “You can’t push god as an agency for anything unless you have some real proof of such a being. So before you start hyperventilating about LIFE try providing some evidence for this magic, invisible god.”
            *******************

            There are literally **tens of thousands** of books – and that is no exaggeration – detailing and discussing proof of the God of the Bible. I myself co-authored one of these and am presently working on another. [‘Without Excuse’ by Gitt, Compton and Fernandez, 2011 … find it on Amazon]. Ergo, no one is “hyperventilating” here beyond yourself. God and His methods are most definitely beyond human comprehension but that in no way excludes being able to rationally support His existence.

          • 1) So those Discovery Institute Fellows were unprepared? They suddenly forgot about all the nonsense they been spewing for decades? Please!

            2) If you understood science you would know that a scientific theories says precise things about a precise domain. Origins has nothing to do with species formation.

            3) Like I said Science says it doesn’t know. Inventing stupid analogy’s doesn’t change that. Still what is your alternate theory? Goddidit?

            4) A God of the Gaps has a finite life time

            5) No, Evolution has plenty of evidence as does Abiogenesis. God has no real world evidence. That is the problem.

            6) Show me one piece of evidence of this invisible god which is not the bible and does not describe his works (he have rational, evidence based explanations for the world around as).

            You claim to be having a personal relationship with this entity so evidence should be easy to come by. Where is it?

          • Jorge1927 says:

            Stop wasting my time, child. I’ve been dealing with your kind for decades and so I know full well that if God Himself were to slap you in the face you would continue to deny the evidence. I’ve already stated that I’ve written one book and am working on another. I gave you the source for that book. I also gave you sites where you could go to educate yourself. As expected, you ignore all of that while continuing to demand that “something be given to you”. Well, I DID give you something. I can’t help it if you willingly choose to ignore it. Also, this isn’t the proper forum for a full discussion as it would take tons of time and writing – neither of which I am able to supply. Besides, why reinvent the wheel? Most of the answers that you seek already exist in the literature. If you want a personal tutor then you’ll have to hire one. Finally, don’t think that I’ve forgotten about your double-standard tactic. You demand hard evidence for something that you yourself are unable to provide and then declare “victory”. Try applying your own standard to yourself. The “evidence” that you *claim* to have is found severely wanting – all it takes is critical thinking and integrity. Naturalism – Humanism – Materialism are all dead ends with nowhere to go but down – literally as well as figuratively. Try harder. Signing off – feel free to have the last word.

          • Jorge, he is demanding hard evidence for proof of god. You are the one stating there is one. You have the burden of proof.

            If there is so much evidence on your side, why do you keep losing all these court cases?

          • Jorge1927 says:

            1. “Hard evidence” … come on, let’s not be naive, okay? Furthermore, why do you people always make demands for “proof” when you won’t apply the same standards to yourself? I mean, let’s see some intellectual integrity for a change.

            2. Why are the court cases lost time and again? Tell me the truth, you haven’t figured that one out on your own? Let me clue you in: Under the old Soviet Union, why did Capitalists “keep losing all court cases” against a Communistic economic system? But there’s more … I tried warning the ID community that they were barking up the wrong tree and that this would cost them. My prediction was fulfilled to a ‘T’. I even sent emails *during* the trial suggesting that they focus on the real issue. They disregarded my suggestions and the rest is history. To this day the ID folks continue in their error. This is the # 1 reason why ID is, at present, making progress only at a snail’s pace.

          • When I come to you and claim to know that there is an all powerful, invisible deity that created the universe, then you can demand proof from me. Until then, keep believing your fairy tales in the privacy of your own home or church and stay out of our schools (unless you want to learn something, then please come back).

          • Skeptic NY says:

            Might of missed it. Evidence for your god is what exactly? Wink wink the “Designer” is the biblical god and not Pele the Fire Goddess or Krishna. I won’t tell anybody, don’t worry.

          • Jorge1927 says:

            The tone of your post indicates your disposition so, no thanks. Besides, I had posted earlier that “this isn’t the proper forum for a full discussion as it would take tons of time and writing…” That was why I recommended the sites – because it is all there to be read at your leisure. Of course, we all know you won’t do that since that would pop your bubble and we can’t have that.

    • GalapagosPete says:

      “The Dover decision was exceptional overreach for a man totally
      unqualified to define science and religion outside his own family unit.”

      Except that isn’t what he did, any more than a judge or jury may decide a criminal case based on their personal knowledge of forensics. That’s what experts are for.

      “Intelligent design remains a body of scientific evidence…”

      Well, in the sense that there is scientific evidence for Bigfoot in the form of casts of his footprints, or grainy images of it. There’s just no *good* evidence.

      “Nothing in the Darwinian faith system gives any answer…”

      Mostly because there is no such thing as the “Darwinian faith system,” Neo-Darwinian theory, however, does actually provide an answer – it’s called evolution.

      “Government owned…schools should be open minded to possible causes for effects observed by all.”

      No, only to the current scientific theories. There is little enough time to teach the best explanations, there certainly isn’t enough time to teach flights of fancy like IDCreationism. Even if there was a good reason, which there is not.

      • “Well, in the sense that there is scientific evidence for Bigfoot in the form of casts of his footprints, or grainy images of it. There’s just no *good* evidence.”

        Dude, I busted out laughing at that! Well done.

  5. A more accurate perspective on Miller and Behe. Go to the bottom of the page under the title: “Irreducible Complexity: The Primordial Condition of Biology.”

    http://www.Biosemiosis.org

    Miller was wrong. Behe was right. Demonstrated fact. You can’t translate information without irreducible complexity.

    • Irreducible complexity has been exposed as nonsense.

    • Skeptic NY says:

      Every single example of reputed “Irreducible Complexity” (IC) has been shown NOT to be irreducible complex. Every single one. That the proponents of IC don’t acknowledge this fact shows them to be shameless dishonest frauds.

      • Meepestos says:

        Frauds that have ID/Creationist sites under the guise of being an academic institute that are notorious for mine quoting and are not open to comments and questioning. They seem to appeal to sheeple that are of the closed mindset that their species is the result of divine intention. So far, on forums, when I give these frauds the contacts and email addresses of faculty members they have mine quoted, all came up with some lame excuse not to contact them and beverage get back to me. I don’t like to admit this, but I once was hoodwinked by these frauds, but going with institutions where discoveries/breakthroughs have been made in technology, medicine, and cosmology have educated me, not to mention demonstrate the importance of evaluating a source for bias and credibility.

      • Well, that’s one way to deal with contrary evidence, — just deny it and call ’em frauds!

        Every instance of translated information ever known to exist requires one arrangement of matter to serve as a representational medium, and a second arrangement of matter to establish what is being represented. This has been documented in the physics literature starting about half a century ago. We know it is true, and we know why it is true. And the cell is no exception. One arrangement of matter serves as a medium of information (codons in DNA) and a second arrangement of matter establishes what is being represented (the set of aaRS). The arrangement of nucleotides in DNA does not determine what the post-translation results are — just like in every instance of translated information every known to exist. Those are the facts. If you have evidence to the contrary, then post it. Don’t just assert it.

  6. Unfortunately, Dover demonstrated my main concern about strategy, that being to make sure that the matter was argued on a level playing field – it was not. Can’t blame Judge Jones – he was ignorant and did not receive the proper education that could-would have changed everything. Instead, the ID people fell into the science-religion-dichotomy argument and so the result was predictable. Years before Dover I had warned against such a thing.

    As for “… creationists have been trying to sell snake oil for decades…”, that statement is so horrendously biased and clueless that I’ll not dignify its stupidity with an answer.

    • ID is creationism.

      Creationism is phony science and nothing to do with Christian biblical belief.

      No Christian is required to accept phony science.

      • Jorge1927 says:

        I see that, just as a mindless broken record, you continue stuck on your mantra. Fine, if that warms your toast then so be it. Just know that you are wrong and have been advised so. If you should ever want to escape your delusion and move towards the truth then there are thousands of sources on the internet that will assist you (e.g., ICR, CRS, CMI, & many others). But my money says that you will choose to continue parroting your errors and remain basking in the warmth and security of your false beliefs. Go on, prove me wrong.

        • So you can’t provide any counter argument at all … all you can do is point to creationist websites and their phony science.

          I’m convinced.

    • Skeptic NY says:

      Except for the fact that ID is religion. To suggest otherwise is delusional, to suggest that it be put on the same field as science is both delusional and dishonest. Come up with a real theory for ID, one that is falsifiable, with empirical evidence for a designer (wink wink it’s the biblical god), testable, has positive empirical evidence, is peer reviewed and one that does not just consist of whining and complaining (whining and complaining has never won a Nobel Prize) about evolution then we can begin to talk about it being a viable theory to be further explored. Until then enjoy your association with astrologers, palm-readers, psychics and flat-earthers.

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