Uncommon Descent

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24 October 2007

Kenneth R. Miller and the Problem of Evil, Part 1

Michael J Behe

(This is the first of three posts on Kenneth Miller and the problem of evil.)

Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller has penned a second review of The Edge of Evolution, this one for the Catholic magazine Commonweal (subscription required). In the new review Miller alludes to some scientific points from his first review inNature. (I refer readers to my previous rejoinder to that on this blog.) But much of the second review turns on the theological implications of the book.

In the new review Miller seems truly astounded that I argue that common descent is very strongly supported:

Those hoping that Behe would argue for a biblical version of human origins will be shocked. Indeed, Behe tells his readers that there must be “no relying on holy books or prophetic dreams,” and that it “would be silly” to treat the Bible “as some sort of scientific textbook.” Amen.

Gee, of all the folks in America who follow these issues, Miller must be the only person who doesn’t know that I most certainly do not “argue for a biblical version of human origins.” I take my data exclusively from the scientific observation of nature, not from religious sources. I have always thought the evidence for common descent is persuasive. I said so in Darwin’s Black Box over ten years ago; I’ve said so repeatedly in public and private, to intellectual friends and intellectual opponents. The only conclusion I can draw from Miller’s apparent shock is that, when it comes to intelligent design arguments, Ken Miller just doesn’t listen too well. He hears what he wants to hear from design arguments and then substitutes his own ideas when the actual statements of ID proponents don’t fit his mental script. Then he argues with great passion against a strawman.

So it seems Miller now belatedly realizes that he and I agree on common descent. (You’d think that would cheer him up a bit, but it sure doesn’t seem to in the review.) What’s more, we both believe the universe was designed, at least to a certain level. (You’d think that additional common ground would cheer Miller a bit too but, if so, he keeps it well disguised.)

Behe happily notes, as I would, that we live in a universe whose fundamental physical constants are remarkably hospitable to life. To me, and apparently to Behe, these constants may well reflect the will of a creator we would both identify as the God of Abraham.

So let me emphasize: Kenneth Miller is an intelligent design proponent. He believes that the laws of the universe were purposely set up to permit life to develop. Miller thinks that, to accomplish the goal of life, the universe had to be designed to the depth of its fundamental physical constants. I agree with him as far as he goes, but, on the other hand, as I write in The Edge of Evolution, I think design extends further into the universe, past physical constants, past anthropic coincidences, and well into biology. Yet, with respect to design, he and I differ only on degree, not on principle.

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