Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

October 20, 2007

Kenneth Miller on Intelligent Design

Filed under: culture, politics, religion, science — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 11:47 am

Kenneth Miller provides a thorough debunking of the intelligent design movement, provides evidence that it is, in fact, a repackaging of creationism and shows some of the intellectual dishonesty of those who evangelize it. It is a great talk, full of interesting science and some humor. The most powerful part of the presentation is exploring the irreducible complexity argument. Irreducible complexity makes an intrinsic amount of sense. If I have a watch, and I take out a gear or the battery, it ceases to function. If I take a human body and take out the heart, brain or lungs it will cease to function. The argument goes because the brain can’t function without lungs, or the heart, all those pieces must have been in place from the start. The system is irreducibly complex because they are all interdependent and they don’t serve any useful purpose on their own. It follows that all the systems had to have come into being at once, presumably by someone or something who knew what they were doing. I don’t know if people make the argument about organs in the human body, because obviously it is false. Hearts, brains and lungs do evolve. It was rather a demonstration of how the argument works. Lest I be accused of bias, Kenneth Miller explains in the video why other poster children for irreducible complexity such as hemoglobin, bacteria flagellum, and the human immune system fair no better.

The problem isn’t with the irreducible complexity argument itself, it is just that there is scant evidence to support it. In fact, evidence that proponents of intelligent design point to on one day such as bacteria flagellum can be explained in an evolutionary way and a careful examination of the evidence shows that evolutionary case is supported better. In fact, one of the most controversial aspects of evolution, that humans and great apes evolved from a common ancestor, is supported by evidence that intelligent design can’t explain well, such as endogenous retroviruses or the chromosome pair that got fused which Miller discusses. The best argument for intelligent design at that point is that designer did design everything. He/she/it just made look like evolution did it for some unfathomable reason, the deceiving, intelligent designer so to speak. I know people have fallen off that intellectual cliff in the argument, but for a movement that tries to present itself as a reasonable secular movement, the second a negative adjective is attached to the designer (which is just a euphemism for their God), I imagine some serious, tortured logic takes place to keep the pretense secular while dropping the negative adjective. In all likelihood, they try to avoid the inescapable conclusion.

However, Kenneth Miller does give some insight on where the attack is coming next. It is teaching the “controversy.” A controversy that is wholly politically manufactured and not scientific. It also comes from an attempt to discredit evolution by holding it to an impossible burden of proof. The reason is that it is impossible is that the people in the movement take it as an article of faith that evolution must be false because it contradicts their religious view of an inerrant religious text or their interpretation of it. That is not a rational standard, but rather an irrational one which is why Kenneth Miller’s remark that everything is at stake is not an understatement.


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  2. Saying that a person only subscribes to creationism or intelligent design because it jives with their faith is no different than saying that an evolutionist only subscribes to Darwinism because of their aversion to faith in God.
    I have yet to see any example in the fossil record or present today of trans-speciesial evolution. The simple fact of the matter is that there are none because it doesn’t happen. One species does not naturally transform into another one, no matter how long the process is. If it was the case, the fossil record would be full of examples of reptiles evolving into amphibians to mammals etc.
    Certainly evolution does exist and is provable, however, species transformation does not, at least not in nature. Perhaps one day we’ll master genetic manipulation and then we can choose to believe in evolution as an explanation for the origins of mankind because we will have the ability to transform species, however, until that day, that ability remains not in nature’s domain but in Gods.

    Comment by acs — January 2, 2008 @ 7:17 pm

  3. Hi acs. Did you watch the video?

    Would the transition of bears to whales be good enough for you?

    I am not going to engage in a perverse version of Zeno’s paradox with you about the fossil record, but I think it may be time for you to re-examine it, since many of the gaps you complain about have gotten much smaller.

    I would also vary your first statement a little bit because I believe you have the causality wrong: “saying that an evolutionist only subscribes to Darwinism because of their aversion to faith in God.”

    Darwin provided a natural and compelling explanation of how humanity arose without the need for supernatural intervention. For many, this explanation is good enough to abandon all belief in the supernatural which directly leads to atheism or agnosticism. I’m not disagreeing with you about the equivalence of the statement. As Nietzsche put it, “”the greatest recent event—that God is dead, that the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable…”

    There are several ways to resolve the conflict on the religious side. Non-overlapping magisteria is one approach but undermines the literal truth of the Bible in doing so. Creation “science” and its derivatives (such as Intelligent Design) are another, however they face the problem of being continually discredited as Kenneth Miller demonstrates.

    The argument in the second paragraph is extraordinarily weak and a false dichotomy. Even if all the gaps undermined evolution as much as you believe they do, it doesn’t mean “that ability remains not in nature’s domain but in Gods.” A selectively applied standard is a refuge of the dishonest.

    Comment by codesmithy — January 3, 2008 @ 8:14 am

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