History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Ken Miller on ID

May 8th, 2008 · No Comments

Kenneth R. Miller: Countering Intelligent Design
by Sarah Gold, Religion BookLine — Publishers Weekly, 5/7/2008
Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller, author of Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul (Viking, June; reviewed in PW April 14), is a leading opponent of intelligent design and a member of the Catholic Academy of Sciences of the United States.

RBL: How did you become involved in the debate over intelligent design?

Miller: In 1981, a group of students in Campus Crusade for Christ invited a scientific creationist to campus and asked me to debate him. I put them off but listened to an audio tape of a lecture to know where this guy was coming from. The more I listened, the more upset I got, on two grounds. The first was the scientific misrepresentation and distortions; the second was that these guys would dare to say, “We speak for religion.” The group sold so many tickets that we had to move this debate to the hockey rink, and I whupped the guy. In his own in-house newsletter he said that this guy Miller at Brown was the most effective evolutionist debater he had ever encountered.

RBL: Another biologist has been addressing issues of science and faith: Richard Dawkins. How do you feel about the “new atheism” of Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others?

Miller: The best, the clearest, and most incisive writer about evolutionary theory alive on the planet is Richard Dawkins. He also is—and I told him this to his face—the most evangelical atheist I’ve ever met. He believes that religion is not only false and incorrect but also a destructive force in society and therefore needs to be eliminated. Now he’s welcome to hold that opinion, but I think very often his writing gives the impression that he is speaking for science itself. And he’s not, because, if God is defined as a force outside of nature, then the existence or nonexistence of God is simply not a scientific question, because science can only deal with things that are in nature.

The Templeton Foundation has asked 10 individuals to write 1,000-word essays [http://www.templeton.org/belief/] on the question: does modern science make religion obsolete? They asked if I would mind going one-on-one with Christopher Hitchens. He’s already sent me a 500-word screed ripping me and my essay apart, and I have had great fun writing 500 words back at him and expect a couple more exchanges.

RBL: I’d like to ask about Michael Behe, a leading proponent of intelligent design whom you have occasionally debated. You’re both practicing Roman Catholics, you’re both biologists. How did you end up with completely opposite views on evolution and intelligent design?

Miller: I have long since given up trying to figure out why other people think the way they do. But I have an interesting background. My father was brought up in a very strict Catholic family and was guided by his mother into seminary. After two and a half years, he decided he liked girls too much and dropped out. Later he met a really nice girl in New Jersey, my mother, who turned out to be Protestant, and they got married. My mother converted to Catholicism, but we lived with my mother’s Protestant parents. I didn’t go to Catholic school but did go to catechism and lived in a town that was around 40% Jewish. My first couple of girlfriends were Jewish.

I got into science at an early age and I never saw any conflict between science and religion. That’s the ethos of modern Catholicism. If you go to the new biology building at Notre Dame University, inlaid on the floor are the words, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

Tags: Evolution

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