Re: What my tiny little brain was thinking... [was Re: [asa] Two Amino Acid Difference in Gene May Explain Human Speech]

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Fri Nov 13 2009 - 20:39:42 EST

On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 5:34 PM, Schwarzwald <> wrote:

> I'll also note that West makes a specific accusation against Ken Miller,
> arguing that Miller presents evolution as actually unguided as well. I don't
> know the validity of that charge (I read a lot of Miller's writing, but I
> have not read that book), but if so that's a pretty damning one as well. If
> "evolution and God are compatible" means "You can still believe in God even
> while believing evolution is utterly unguided and without purpose", count me
> out.

I'm curious when West said this. If it was after the Dover trial it is
unconscionable and shows that West's accusations are completely off base.
There was an error in the Miller/Levine textbook in the 90s that implied
that evolution was purposeless. When this was brought to Miller's attention
during a debate in 1995(!), the textbook was revised. The following is from
the Dover transcript with Miller on the stand. What Miller said here is the
standard scientific understanding of what constitutes random. This also
illustrates my point it doesn't matter how many times you show otherwise ID
will continue to impute bad motives.

First from the 1995 annual meeting of the ASA (B. is Michael Behe who was
debating Kenneth Miller at the meeting):

> Following these presentations were interactions with the audience. John
> Wiester quoted from Miller's book, Biology (K. Miller and J. Levine,
> Prentice-Hall, 1993, p. 658):
> "In many ways, each animal phylum represents an experiment in the design of
> body structures to perform the tasks necessary for survival. Of course,
> there has never been any kind of plan to these experiments because
> evolution
> works without either plan or purpose."
> He then asked Ken if he would consider this science or philosophy. John's
> point was that B.'s ideological implications are significant and worth
> considering for revision in the next edition of the book.

Fast forward ten years to the Dover trial:

Q <>. Sir, is
evolution random and undirected?

A <>. I don't think
that that is an appropriate scientific question. First of all, evolution
most definitely is not random. There are elements of evolutionary change
that are unpredictable, but the principal force driving evolution, which is
natural selection is most definitely a non-random force, and then the second
part of your question, undirected, that requires a conclusion about meaning
and purpose that I think is beyond the realm of science. So my answer for
different reasons to both parts of your question is no. Or excuse me,
perhaps more aptly put, science cannot answer the second part of the
question. I think that's a more accurate way to put it.

Q <>. Is a student
believes that this was a scientific complaint -- let me strike that. If a
student believes that this was a scientific claim, would that be a

A <>. If a student
believed that it was a scientific claim that evolution was random and
undirected, would that be a misconception? And I think my answer to that is
yes, that would be a misconception of what science can state about

Q <>. Sir, in your
1995 edition of Biology, I believe it's the Elephant Book?

A <>. That's
correct. It's generally known by that name.

Q <>. Did it not
state in that book, "It is important to keep this concept in mind. Evolution
is random and undirected," and the part "evolution is random and undirected"
was in bold print?

A <>. To be
perfectly honest, which of course I swore to be, I don't remember if it was
in bold print or ordinary print, but I'm sure you have a copy of that book,
and I'm sure that you'll show it to me and refresh my memory.

Q <>. You're very
perceptive. May I approach the witness, Your Honor?


Q <>. I hand you
what's been previously marked as Defendant's Exhibit 210.

A <>. And in
response to your question, sir, I note under Section 30-2 on the second page
of the document you gave me, the complete sentence reads, "As we do so it's
important to keep this concept in mind," and it is indeed in boldface,
"Evolution is random and undirected," that's correct. So yes, sir, it does
say that.

Q <>. Now, isn't
it true when you write your textbook, a boldfaced sentence is a way of
telling the students that this is a key idea?

A <>. Yes, sir, it

Q <>. Now, you
testified previously that that's not a scientific concept, correct?

A <>. I did
indeed, sir.

Q <>. Why was it
in your book?

A <>. It was in my
book because as I'm sure you've also looked at, that statement was not in
the first edition of the book, it was not in the second edition, it was not
in the fourth edition, it was not in the fifth edition. It was not --

Q <>. My question
is why is it in this edition?

A <>. I'm trying
to set the context so I can give a full and complete answer to your
question. So the interesting thing is that this is the only edition of any
of the books that we have published, and probably eleven different editions,
that contains that statement, and the reason for that quite simply is that I
work with a co-author whose name is Joseph Levine, and Joe and I work
together on many of the chapters in the book, but many of them we write
separately and individually, and this was a statement that Joe inserted when
we did a rewrite of many sections of this book for the third edition.

<>I have to say
that I missed the statement as I was going through Joe's chapters, and I
feel very badly about that. When this was first pointed out to me, the third
edition of this book was in print, I immediately went to Joe, I said Joe, I
think this is a bad idea, I said I think this is a non-scientific statement,
I think it will mislead students. Joe agreed. We immediately took it out of
the book, and that's why I emphasized that it did not appear in subsequent
editions. So what you're looking at, sir, is a mistake.

Q <>. Isn't it
true that he put that in there because he was influenced by the writings of
Steven J. Gould?

A <>. We had a
conversation about that, and among the reasons that Joe cited was that he
had read one of Steve Gould's books called "Wonderful Life" in which Gould
emphasized what Gould regarded as the indeterminate character of evolution,
and from that I think Joe made what I still think is a misinterpretation of
Gould's central idea in "Wonderful Life," which is to say the indeterminate
or the unpredictable nature of evolution Joe misinterpreted to say random
and undirected, and I think Joe agreed that he had made a mistake, and
that's one of the reasons why we changed it in the next edition, sir.
Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Fri Nov 13 20:39:53 2009

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