Kenneth Miller: an Unlikely Hero
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.
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.
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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