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Kenneth Miller: an Unlikely Hero

Updated on February 5, 2012
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Cell Biologist, Advocate for Evolution, Christian

Kenneth Miller is all of these things. He is a renowned cell biologist and behind several high school science text books. Open your child's science book and chances are you will find his name among the credits. More recently he has become quite popular in several court cases involving evolution being taught in schools. In 2002 he testified as a witness on behave of the plaintiffs in the Selman v Cobb County case. This was a case where the validity of stickers on his biology high school text book that read, "theory, not a fact," when referring to evolution was being tried. Miller was also the lead expert witness in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District. This was a case that challenged the school board's mandate to incorporate intelligent design into the curriculum. In both of these cases the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Science won.

So, why is Kenneth Miller a hero, and an unlikely one, at that? Well, personally, I find it fascinating that this man who speaks so eloquently about evolution and the need for it to be taught in schools, is a theist. Before you start judging me, let me explain. I have, for some years now, entered into debates with theists, both Christian and Muslim, about evolution. I have yet to encounter a theist that can accept evolution for what it is. In fact, I find that the biggest problem is that the theist I am debating just does not know what evolution is, and starts his argument with something like, "evolution cannot prove where we came from." Evolution is simply the theory that change occurs over time within a population of a species, resulting in a new species. The key word, however, is time. Most theist just cannot grasp this.

But Miller does! And he is a wonderful advocate for evolution! So this hub will highlight him and the reasons why I respect this man so.

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Chromosome #2

Let me start by explaining what first caught my eye about this brilliant man. In doing some research to prepare for a debate, I came across a Youtube video that you can see below of Kenneth Miller demolishing ID with his argument about chromosome #2. Let me clarify that I am no biologist and just debate about evolution because it fascinates me--so let's just say that biology is a sort of hobby of mine--I am no expert. So naturally, when I came across his video, I was astounded. With the mapping of the human genome,along with the more recent mapping of the chimpanzee genome, this is solid evidence for the theory of evolution. But I cannot do chromosome #2 much justice. Why not just watch Miller in this excerpt from his entire presentation that you can watch here. I highly recommend it.

Separation of Faith and Science

So, clearly, Miller is a theist. But he does what many theists do not, and that is keep his faith apart from scientific facts. Some might argue that his claim that the two can be compatible destroy any credibility he may have, but I have to disagree. True, he is the author of a book titled Finding Darwin's God, where he argues that one can have faith in god and accept evolution, but I think this just shows how it is possible to accept facts for what they are instead of denying them in order to save your faith. In fact, Miller has won several awards for his forthright inquiry in science. In 2006 he delivered a lecture at Yale, "Darwin, God and Dover: What the Collapse of 'Intelligent Design' Means for Science and for Faith in America." In 2008 he won the AAAS Award for Public Understanding of Science and Technology. He has gone on to speak at the Skeptics Society's Origins Conference alongside other brilliant scientists like Leonard Susskind and Paul Davies. More recently, in 2010, he was elected as a Fellow for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. In short, this man has bean honest in his findings, and has had no problem keeping his faith separate from facts.

Conclusion

As an atheist, I understandably have my reservations about trusting what any theist claims. I have no problem, however, distinguishing between fact and fiction. I will also admit that I was disappointed when I discovered that Kenneth Miller was religious. I know, shame on me. But I learned something on this journey. I learned that I really don't care what silly or foolish things a person believes when and if those silly things only affect the person, and no one else. I think Kenneth Miller is a wonderful example of this. He keeps his personal beliefs to himself. He doesn't let them interfere with science and facts. I think this is a hard thing to do, though, and don't think it is possible for everyone to do this. I think most people will let their beliefs guide them in some way, and inevitably force them to make a decision--chose one or the other. Who knows, perhaps that point has yet to come for Dr. Miller. When it comes, though, I hope facts and evidence will win.

I can respect Miller based on his honesty in dealing with the facts. I have stated before in other articles that not everyone deserves respect, and certainly not because you have some ridiculous belief. Miller is not asking for respect based on a ridiculous belief. He gets my respect because he has proven to be honest. He hasn't tried to make any excuses that include magic or god's unfathomable will to explain scientific fact, which is remarkable given that he clearly states, he believes in god, but not in a deceptive one. That might be interpreted as one of those ridiculous excuses and some may say he should just abandon his ludicrous beliefs in god. I can see that. But I also can see that his beliefs have not in any way affected his scientific work. This is something that all theists should strive for. So in my opinion, Miller earns a spot next to some other honest and reputable scientists that serve as my role models: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, and PZ Myers.

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    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      True. Very good point. I agree.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

      I prefer to think that society won - with help from science.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Well, he came off as a smart ass to me. I know science doesn't win or lose, but in the court setting there are winners and losers, so my point was that in those two court cases science won out over the ignorance of creationism.

    • profile image

      Carneades-Georgia 5 years ago

      Emma, thanks. I'll mention you on my blogs.

      Science is naturalism's glory as it ever changes,despite John L.Schellenberg's crticism of naturalism for relying so much on science.He nicely skewers the supernatural!

      Pcunix,that glory!

      My own arguments stress explicitly what we naturalists know about the supernatural but had not expressed as arguments.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

      Emma, you might be misinterpreting nicomp's comment. I agree with what he says - a court might rule in favor of prevailing scientific knowledge or it may not, but in neither case is is deciding what is true. Science doesn't win or lose - it only progresses.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      I'll give them a look.

    • profile image

      Carneades-Georgia 5 years ago

      emmaspeaks,Google lamberth's naturalistic arguments about God to see if you can improve them.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Congratulations, nicomp. You get the award for most useless comment.

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

      "In both of these cases the judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Science won."

      Courts do not 'decide' science. Science does not have winners and losers.

    • profile image

      Carneades-Georgia 5 years ago

      Emma, amen and indeed! Those people of scoence do so in contradiction to science as Lamberth's teleonomic/atelic argument notes!

      Headkeyh Human interpretations contradict each other and none have reliability whilst false history and contradictions amongst their pages and with reality, gainsays the Tanakh and the Christian Testament and the Qur'an fares no better!

      AKA, Miler is a true Christian. Don't make the no True Scotsman fallacy!

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      No, a believer wouldn't have to make a choice. A man of science would. You have obviously chosen to side with belief. I've read your hubs, so I can say that much. Science and faith have no business together. Keep childish books and myths out of it.

    • HeadlyvonNoggin profile image

      Jeremy Christian 5 years ago from Texas

      This is a good hub. I agree for the most part. I applaud the work Kenneth Miller is doing and I applaud you giving credit where credit is due, and for recognizing and acknowledging that you at first had a personal reservation about him based on his faith.

      The only part I can't agree with totally is this...

      "I think most people will let their beliefs guide them in some way, and inevitably force them to make a decision--chose one or the other."

      If someone believes in God, and doesn't fear science as a threat to their beliefs, then they will acknowledge that science is the study of God's creation and therefore cannot conflict.

      To borrow from St. Augustine, God reveals his nature to us through the 'book of nature' and the 'book of scripture'. If at any point the two seem to conflict, it's human interpretation that is flawed.

      So, I do not agree that a believer would 'inevitably' have to make a choice between one or the other. There is only one truth and it cannot conflict with itself.

    • Carneades-Georgia profile image

      Carneades-Georgia 5 years ago from Augusta, Georgia

      Fellow rationalists and skeptics, thanks. As Naturalist Griggsy, Rationalist Griggsy, Skeptic Griggsy,amongst other nicknames I give supernaturalists a run for their ill-gotten "money."That money makes me a gnu atheist.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Thank you for the comment, Daughter of Maat. Respect for his attempt at keeping them separate is exactly why I decided to write this hub.

      Secularist, I absolutely agree. I won't lie, though and say I always felt like that. In fact, until just this past summer I was adamantly opposed to religion and beliefs in anything without valid proof. But, I came to the conclusion you so eloquently stated. I really don't care what you believe as long as it doesn't cross over into my world. This is quite similar to the government's concern with what goes on inside a woman's body, or what happens between two humans behind closed doors. I honestly felt ashamed after looking at it that way. So, I agree with you that the emphasis has to be on rational thinking. I have no problem with anyone's beliefs until they cross a line. That line can be anywhere once you step outside your house. Keep personal beliefs personal, and don't let them interfere with logical thinking. Easier said than done, right?

    • secularist10 profile image

      secularist10 5 years ago from New York City

      Emphasis needs to be placed on skepticism and rationalism, not atheism. Among western intellectuals over the last 500 years, first there was skepticism, rationalism, naturalism. Then came atheism. The problem in America is not the belief in God per se. The problem is irrational thinking, non-skeptical thinking and the use of supernatural explanations as reliable tools for understanding the world. So that should be the real target.

      Because, after all, I don't think most of us are concerned about what kind of beliefs people have inside their own heads. What we are concerned with is when those beliefs are allowed to impact society as a whole--as in teaching creationism. If society can regain an appreciation for reason and logic, then irrational supernatural ideas will become far less influential. Even if pure "belief in God" remains.

    • Daughter Of Maat profile image

      Melissa Flagg 5 years ago from Rural Central Florida

      This was an interesting hub, well written. While I agree that a "rational christian" is an oxymoron, I won't deny the fact that they may exist. I'm fascinated by how Miller keeps his faith separated from science and I wonder if this is entirely the case. While I'm not saying it's impossible, I find it hard to believe that his beliefs don't have some influence on his study of the sciences. Everything we assimilate into knowledge is learned through our filter of perception and everyone's perceptions are different. I guess I should say I appreciate Miller's attempt at the separation of his beliefs and science and, as you said, it does command respect. Voted up and interesting! Thanks for posting!

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      ohhya, the point is that theist or not, one should keep personal beliefs out of science.

      AKA, got it. I am kind of slow on sarcasm. Yes, I have heard on many a forum that he can't be a real christian. I find that interesting as well.

      Pcunix, I agree with you. He is definitely not a fundamentalist. I can certainly appreciate him keeping his beliefs out of science.

    • Pcunix profile image

      Tony Lawrence 5 years ago from SE MA

      I love how so many theists will say we shouldn't say our positions are correct and then immediately proceed to tell us that some god is the ultimate answer..

      Apparently Kenneth Miller is a "soft" theist. That's far better than the other kind, but it will still put blind spots in his brain..

    • profile image

      AKA Winston 5 years ago

      emma,

      Tongue-in-cheek comment. It's what is repeated on all the forum questions when someone has non-fundamentalist ideas.

    • profile image

      ohhyaa 5 years ago

      Let me just say, there are several ways of interpreting the Bible. If you want to say this man is not a Christian because he believes in evolution then so be it. But I also am a Christian, and I believe in evolution. And I follow Jesus Christ and accept him as my Savior and believe all he has done for us. There are so many ways of interpreting the Bible. I think that it is wrong to judge and say that "I am right and you are wrong.". I believe that you have to read and interpret the Bible yourself. And follow what God tells you to follow.

    • emmaspeaks profile image
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      emmaspeaks 5 years ago from Kansas City

      Explain. I find that anyone who considers themselves a christian is a christian. He's calling himself one. I might like to think he isn't simply because he seems like a rational human, but he insists he is, so now what?

    • profile image

      AKA Winston 5 years ago

      Kenneth Miller is not a "real" Christian, though.