Congratulations to Ken Miller

Congratulations to Ken Miller, who has been named the winner of the 2011 Stephen Jay Gould Prize. If you have never read it, or if you know someone who has been duped by promoters of Young-Earth Creationism or Intelligent Design, I strongly recommend his book Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06137890891223067672 Morrison

    Finding Darwin's God…a great book, and also good for those who have been duped by the promoters of the idea that evolution implies atheism.As Miller state on page 19 of the ppb version of the book, "Atheism is endemic in academic life." and many of his students are shocked when they find out that he is not an atheist.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    I can also recommend this book, but for different reasons. It shows how bad theology can become when a scientist steps beyond the parameters of his expertise and does the same thing that IDers do but from the other direction. If you want to see why ID is a better answer, definitely read Ken Miller's book!~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I would definitely recommend reading a theologian if one is interested in theology, and not a scientist, regardless whether she or he happens to be a Christian or an atheist. But Miller helpfully explains why ID is bunk as science, not merely presenting the evidence for evolution but also addressing false claims, errors and misconceptions offered by proponents of ID.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    "But Miller helpfully explains why ID is bunk as science, not merely presenting the evidence for evolution but also addressing false claims, errors and misconceptions offered by proponents of ID."That's one, highly biased, and incorrect opinion. The reality appears to be quite the contrary.~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    In your unbiased opinion? :-) . I'm happy to let people read the book, and indeed any other books by scientists engaged in active research and teaching in the field of biology, and decide for themselves. The truth is that scientists, and laypeople who read about science, pretty consistently get the same overall impression, unless they have been previously exposed to misinformation and propaganda from proponents of ID. It is well known that once one has made up one's mind about something, it is very difficult for anyone to get you to change it. That's one of the main reasons to have confidence in science – while some use changing views of scientists over the years as though it were reason to reject science, in fact what it shows is that even widely accepted ideas will come to be replaced if the evidence mounts for a different conclusion.But I hope that you know that, in addition to spreading misinformation about science, every time you tell people that they must choose between evolution and Christianity, and that the evidence doesn't support evolution, you risk doing permanent damage to their faith. If they believe you, and then realize they were lied to and duped, they may lose their faith altogether.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04335917715944481443 Gary

    I recommmend Miller's book too. Great science. No conflict between science and religion. Although they are still best kept separate, for reasons above.

  • Daniel O

    @James "If they believe you, and then realize they were lied to and duped, they may lose their faith altogether" YOU HIT THE NAIL ON THE HEAD with this comment…. should be quote of the day : )

  • Antonio Jerez

    I have mixed feelings about Miller´s book. The first half of the book (where Miller shows with simple, solid arguments the rightness of darwinian evolution and the plain stupidity of most creationist arguments) is excellent. The second half of the book (where Miller tries to show that Darwinism can go hand in hand with Christianity) is just pathetic. If the first part of the book was illuminated with strong arguments, the second half is darkened with one weak argument heaped upon another. I can understand persons like Gary who think Miller has shown that there is no conflict between science and religion, but if arguments like Miller´s is the best on offer then Miller and Gary are in no better position than those foolish creationists.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    The main criticism I have of the latter part of the books it that, having eschewed a "God of the gaps" approach in the realm of biology, Miller seems to do just that on relation to quantum physics.But as long as he sticks to what he knows best, biology, he does a fantastic and persuasive job.

  • Anonymous

    Ken Miller, Polkinghorne, and Gary are light years ahead of silly creationist. You, Atonio are doing countless millions more harm than good by forcing them to choose between faith and reason. Most people are loyal to their faith traditions and if you try and tell them that accepting modern science or whatever means rejecting God or their religon than of course they're going to view modern science with some suspicion, if you're that upset with how science is preceived amongst most Americans that at least offer them a solution that allows them to accept both. Doing so will solve a lot of their problems. As for Ken's argument for God's action in the world, I personally find it rather weak but I tend not to like most arguments that reduce God to a hypothesis. Most of the time it just ends up looking rather superflous and does no justice to either God or science. The best thing in my opinion is to keep the two seperate. God can still serve as creator and substainer of the universe but to make him into a scientific explaination on how our universe functions doesn't really explain much. Brian

  • Anonymous

    James, I as a guy with a passing interest in cosmology say that while Ken does turn God into a god of the gaps he offers us a useful model to work with as far as how God works in the world. And arguments from the antrophic principle differ from intelligent design in the sense that the AP says our universe works very well whereas ID says that there is absolutely no way evolution could have worked because it is such a flawed system. One thing says our universe is intelligable the other does not.Brian

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous,in the second half of the book Miller is definitely not "light years ahead of the silly creationists". Many of his arguments are just as silly as the ones offered by creationists. It is ironic that he castigates the creationists mercilessly in the first half for not seeing things as they are and misrepresenting things while he does much the same thing himself throughtout the latter part of his book. And I certainly don´t see it in any way as my duty to give existentially confused americans a solution of how you make modern science compatible with a Christian god. But I do see it as my duty to point out that there doesn´t seem to be any likeness whatsoever between the kind of god who shows up in the Bible and whatever kind of god who may act in this Universe. If there is a god in this Universe he sure as h… doesn´t have any of the atributes Jesus claimed he had. I´d give an analogy with the way we try to describe a normal person. Let´s take Charles; he has black hair, brown eyes, can´t sing, is a great piano player and hates cooking. And let´s take Andrew who has red hair, blue eyes, sings like an angel, plays the piano like Horowitz and makes better food than Ferran Adria. As far as I see it people like Miller and Polkinhorne are trying to tell me that Charles and Andrew are actually the same person even though people like me don´t see much likeness between them. Miller and Polkinhorne may fool themselves and others but I don´t see any need to fall into quagmire…

  • Antonio Jerez

    A little correction. I meant of course that Charles is a terrible piano player. Andrew plays like Horowitz…

  • Anonymous

    I never said that it was your job to reconcile the two but don't contribute to the problem and whine about it later. As for the Bible it has many portraits of God. the book of Esther presents us with a rather interesting God who's work in the world isn't always obvious same goes for the Gospels who's image probably wasn't as easily recognizable to apostles as it was for somebody like Moses or the prophets of the Hebrew Bible. Such attitudes remind me of those who complain that natural theology just gives us a prime mover or first cause and not a God of love when it isn't suppose to. Natural theology just seeks to prove the existence of God via reason. The kind of God that prime mover in falls under a different jurisdiction.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous,sound like what you are basically asking me is to stop saying that the Emperor has no clothes. And although the god of the Bible may have quite a lot of different faces (he is definitely schizofrenic)there is no face that looks even remotely like a Darwinian god. If there is a Darwinian god it is definitely not Jesus' god. Better call him something else, but it certainly ain´t Yahweh…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04335917715944481443 Gary

    Just a short comment…I do not consider myself an expert in anything…just making my own observations based upon both what I know and what I feel and believe. I see no conflict between science and religion, but I'm certainly no Miller or Polkinghorne. When it comes to beliefs versus knowledge, everyone's on their own. Everyone has to "cultivate their own gardens" (Candide).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    "But as long as he sticks to what he knows best, biology, he does a fantastic and persuasive job."What you apparently don't realize, James, is that in the very act of trying to refute ID scientifically Ken Miller is doing theology. That's the problem with your position and his: You claim that science and religion should be kept separate yet that means that you can't speak to the supernatural without stepping over the very line that's been drawn in the sand. Science *can't* exclude God without becoming theology.~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Antonio, you might want to call me something other than James McGrath, then, since I am a very different person now than the newborn whose birth certificate I consider my own. :-) If one is committed to the idea that the Bible offers us unchanging truth then there are going to be difficulties. But the Bible itself provides testimony to people's changing views of God. And so why exactly should they stop changing, when in fact we ought to expect the opposite, i.e. that changes in culture and increases in scientific knowledge should cause us to change our thinking about God even more, just as our thinking changes in all other areas?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Kaz, his arguments for evolution, common ancestry, and other aspects of mainstream biology (and geology and genetics and various lated areas) are convincing. That's the heart of the issue. One can relate those scientific ideas to religious beliefs in a variety of ways, or not at all, but the evidence regarding what has happened in the history of life on this planet is clear and points in the same direction. And to claim otherwise is to show either ignorance or dishonesty with respect to the evidence.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Gary,you say that you see no conflict between religion and science. I don´t really think you believe that. Which religion do you mean? There are many religions and gods out there on the market. I suppose you wouldn´t say that a religion like Mormonism or Hare Krishna go hand in hand with modern science. So I guess that by a happy coincidence it happenes that your own religion (some heavily mutated form of Christianity) fits nicely with science. James,yes, I´ve heard you repeat that argument many times before…since the Bible has so many divergent views on many things I can happily make up my own theology and mutate Christianity beyond recognition. If Christianity hadn´t had a prophet/god-man called Jesus with some very specific teachings and claims at its beginning that kind of tactic might have worked but since things are as they are I think your argument falls to the ground. But you could of course find a way out of the problem by joining Doherty and the other Jesus mythers. If Jesus never existed and all his teachings are just made up by others then I suppose you are free to make up your own religion and still stamp the Jesus brand on the package :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    We only know about him and his teaching through some rather varied sources, although they are not without their commonalities. Presumably one can be as creative and/or as varied as they are and not merely consider oneself a Christian, but a Biblical one. :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    Well,the problem is if a Christianity without Adam and Eve, a Devil, real miracles, glossalia etc etc deserves to be called Christianity. As far as I see it components like that are at the core of early Christianity – no matter what NT book you look at. So it isn´t as simple as saying that the Bible is varied and therefore I am free to discard whatever I want or suddenly let Darwin or Richard Dawkins teach me about the way the god of this Universe really works (… oops,it doesn´t really matter that our "prophet" doesn´t appear to have been much of a prophet after all or had much special knowledge about god´s working methods and his future plans…). James, from my viewpoint the problem with your kind of Christianity is that it might be possible to sell it to onself but if you are going to use it for missionary purposes it is practically useless. Imagine yourself going to some village in Africa were you are trying to convince som poor fellow that Christianity is still true despite Jesus believing in avenging angels, angels which missionary McGrath don´t believe in, still true despite Jesus confusing epilepsy with evil spirits, still true despite Paul and the others reading things into the Bible that missionary McGrath knows isn´t true, still true despite Jesus being as ignorant about the beginning of history as about the end of history… That kind of package is hard to sell. The fundamentalists know it. Which is why they have enough common sense not to repackage Christianity so much that it cannot be called Christianity any more but rather prefer to shut off their intellect and rather "see" reality with the same kind of eyes Jesus, Paul and the others used.

  • Anonymous

    I think religions have shown an incredible amount of flexibility and have still carried on as whatever they were called. I would argue that todays fundamentalist see Christianity with rather different eyes than Jesus had and Paul saw it a lot differently than Jesus. Certainly most of what are called Buddhist today have beliefs completely at odds with Buddhas. Mike Wilson

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04335917715944481443 Gary

    That's the first time I've been accused of not believing what I believe. I admit I've changed my views over my life, but at any one moment in time… anyway, if someone wants to cultivate an atheistic garden, and is satisfied with no explanation for the orderliness in the universe(s), other than luck, so be it. The infinite # of universes continuously being generated in a bubbly foam with a zero total mass and energy overall, now that's a belief, not knowledge, so is more a religion. Their temple should be in Las Vegas. Anyway, I've exhaused my thoughts on the subject.

  • Antonio Jerez

    Gary,my english isn´t perfect, but what I was trying to say is that you should be a bit more specific when saying that religion don´t stand in conflict with science. I guessed that you meant that YOUR particular brand of religion doesn´t conlict with science, and I think that my guess was right. And no, I don´t feel satisfied with no answer other than luck for the appearance of our Universe. But neither am I satisfied with "answers" that are patently false like the ones religious cults like Christianity, Mormonism or Hare Krishna give. So until I get an answer for the BIG BIG questions that make some sense I think I can live on in uncertainty. Maybe uncertainty on the BIG questions doesn´t make you as happy as the false sense of certainty that often follow from belonging to a religious group, but I think wisdom doesn´t come cheaply :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    Anonymous,true! Religions always change. They have to if they want to survive in an everchanging world. The only question is how much a religion like Christianity can change before it is time to call it something else. Is Mormonism Christianity? And although todays fundamentalists certainly don´t have everything in common with the original form of Christianity at least I think one can say that they are mostly truer to the original gospel and the worldview Jesus, Paul and the others shared than todays liberal Christians.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Antonio, I don't particularly mind about the label or terminology. After all, even calling Paul's religion "Christianity" is anachronistic. He didn't call it that, as far as we know. The labels change over time too, and not just the content.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    “Kaz, his arguments for evolution, common ancestry, and other aspects of mainstream biology (and geology and genetics and various lated areas) are convincing. That's the heart of the issue. One can relate those scientific ideas to religious beliefs in a variety of ways, or not at all, but the evidence regarding what has happened in the history of life on this planet is clear and points in the same direction. And to claim otherwise is to show either ignorance or dishonesty with respect to the evidence.”You seem to have missed the point. You claimed that Ken Miller exposed ID as bunk, yet he ultimately can't do so as a scientist, and I don't think that his theology is strong enough for the job. You see, even if he managed to prove that all life emerged via evolutionary processes, that wouldn't refute ID. He can only refute ID by demonstrating that God couldn't have had an active role in the evolutionary processes, and he simply can't do that as a scientist. By the way, your tendency to constantly regurgitate charges of ignorance and dishonesty really shows a whole lot more about you than it does about proponents of ID. That you regurgitate such charges based solely on appeal to authority (a weak form of argument, IMO) while also yourself showing either ignorance or dishonesty about ID makes is very troubling, given your status as a member of academia.~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04335917715944481443 Gary

    Antonio,"So until I get an answer for the BIG BIG questions that make some sense I think I can live on in uncertainty."Let me know if you find the answer. I wish I could give it to you. I hate to say it, but it is rather unimportant, until you lose someone yourself, or you face death yourself. When that happens, and it eventually happens to everyone, the BIG BIG questions become even BIGGER… as in "more important than life". In the meantime, I just heard a Doaist story…a man is chased by a tiger, and he comes to a cliff. Not knowing what to do, he jumps off. He is lucky, and grabs a vine. But below, he sees another tiger at the bottom of the cliff. In the meantime, a white mouse comes out of his hole, and starts chewing on his vine. After a short time, the white mouse goes back into his hole, and a black mouse comes out and chews on his vine. This repeats many times, as his vine gets thinner and thinner. Looking around for what to do, he sees a strawberry vine hanging from the cliff directly in front of him. On the vine is a beautiful berry. He decides to eat it. The story ends there. The moral, as your vine gets thinner and thinner, as the days and nights pass (white and black mouse) you better enjoy the strawberries, because everyone has a tragic end.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Kaz, you seem to think that all you need is theology and you can make scientific arguments and evidence count for nothing. I disagree (and allegedly so do many of the "official" spokespeople for Intelligent Design, although they often contradict themselves on the point).How can any theological claim eliminate the genetic evidence, the evidence for chromosomal fusion, other details we share with our primate relatives? What in all the evidence that Miller and countless others discuss do you find fault? Or are you admitting that the evidence is not the issue, but rather for you it is a theological presupposition that evolution must be wrong?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04335917715944481443 Gary

    BTW….Credit for the Doaist story, a great storyteller from North Carolina, Doug Elliott, who happened to be in San Diego yesterday.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    James,Your last response appears to be non sequitur. I pointed out that mainstream evolutionary theory could be true yet ID not stand refuted and you respond by asserting that I think theology can make scientific evidence stand for nothing, etc.? You lack focus, grasshopper;-)~Kaz

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Sorry I didn't read your comment more carefully. So basically you are using "Intelligent Design" in a completely different way than the majority of its promoters, and didn't think it worth mentioning until now? :) If mainstream science isn't a problem for ID as you define it, then I am even more puzzled as to why you would make your views look bad by coupling them with fringe pseudoscience when it isn't necessary to do so…But I do indeed lack focus at the moment. It is the end of the semester, and so it is perhaps not too surprising. But I apologize nonetheless.

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,sure the labels change…the way…christianoi…catholics..lutherans… The contents also change. But the thing I was wondering about is in what way it is meaningful to claim to be heir to the legacy of religious founders like Jesus or Mohammed if the message and beliefs have changed so much that it has little resemblance to the original. And how many ingredients does it take for you to change the original recipe of a boullabaise before you can acknowledge that your "boullabaise" isn´t a boullabaise anymore? :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    I don't know, but if there are any chefs reading this, we would value your input! :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    …or maybe if the boullabaise doesn´t resemble a boullabaise anymore the best solution is to open a restaurant of your own were you can make up the soup anyway you want without claiming that you are truthful to the original recipe made up by a cook in a faraway country in a faraway time… :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    At least we seem to be coming to agreement that formulating a version of Christianity is like cooking. You may use the same ingredients or slightly different ones from those who went before you, and you may or may not credit a creator of the recipe in its name. But either way, there is creativity involved in how you combine the ingredients and what the result is. And even if the taste is authentic, you are open to complaints that it isn't quite the real thing, while in other cases the taste might be very close indeed and yet the flavors may all be artificial.I think this is a very good analogy indeed! :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13483419817200339955 Paul D.

    Perhaps a religion is more like language. English will never stop being an Indo-European language and a Germanic language. However, it will never stop changing either, nor will the people who speak it. But unless or until it disappears, there will always be continuity from one generation of native speakers to the next, going all the way back to an ancient progenitor that was spoken by a tribe of people most likely in the Caucasus/Black Sea region.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09826280552590911315 Alethinon61

    "Sorry I didn't read your comment more carefully. So basically you are using "Intelligent Design" in a completely different way than the majority of its promoters, and didn't think it worth mentioning until now? :) "Not really. I don't think that the more sophisticated advocates of ID would find what I said problematic. Michael Behe, for example, accepts common descent, but argues that Darwinian processes are not enough to produce the complexity of biological life, and that's certainly true. Water flowing over rock can cause a Grand Canyon but it can't create a Mount Rushmore. For water to cause Mount Rushmore you'd need a designer directing the flow. "If mainstream science isn't a problem for ID as you define it, then I am even more puzzled as to why you would make your views look bad by coupling them with fringe pseudoscience when it isn't necessary to do so…"I'd be more concerned with coupling my views with those who lack Christian Grace than with those who promote what even atheists admit: Life appears to be been designed for a purpose. Those who attempt to develop compelling arguments to reveal this reality are doing a fine thing, IMO. Perhaps one of these days you'll figure out what the claim "I'm a Christian" should mean and then do a blog series developing your thoughts. If you were to decide to become a modern day Apostle Paul, what would your message be? The Bible is not the inspired word of God and many if not most of the events the Gospels narrate probably didn't really happen. Jesus probably really existed, though it's difficult to say very much about him with certainty. He may have been resurrected but we really can't be sure. The fall of man is a myth and so all the suffering that we've endured has not been because of our actions but because God just couldn't be bothered to offer any help. The notion of life after death may also be a myth so we should concentrate on the here and now and not put foolish hope in future happiness. Etc, etc, etc.Where can I sign up?~Kaz

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,good that you liked my cooking analogy. But if I may use another analogy this time I would take it from biology. We know from Darwinism that all living things are interrelated and that one species follows from another. Within a species (dogs…) there are usually different races (bullogs, schäfer…) Just as one can ask how much genetic change it takes before a race can be called a new species, I think one can ask how much change a religion like Christianity can take before it is more meaningful to give the later mutation a new name. I would say a religion like Mormonism has enough mutations to call it a new species, different from Christianity. Just as I would say that many liberal brands of "Christianity" have enough mutations to a call them new species. Sometimes the mutations are so large that the new species have very few gene sequences in common with the ancient ancestor. No biologist in his sane mind would say that a 200 million year old tribolite belongs to the same species as a dog. In the weird weird world of religion it happenes all the time…

  • Antonio Jerez

    …meant DNA sequences…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Surely the categorization of species, like the categorization of recipes, blurs the fact that over time one species can become another. If I said that liberal and conservative forms of Christianity are different religious species that share a common ancestor, would that seem more appropriate to you? :)

  • Antonio Jerez

    James,sure! But what often interests me is which form of the new species that descend from "Christianity" has preserved more of the original "dna". And despite your accusation that the conservatives are spreading heresies I think they have most of the time preserved a lot more of the original "dna" than the liberal species. Conservatives who propagate intelligent design may not be true to reality in this universe but the stay true to the gospel :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02561146722461747647 James F. McGrath

    Surely it is not only or primarily faithful preservation of DNA, but also adaptation to new environments, that matters in the evolutionary long run, for religions as for organisms. :-)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X