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

From: Schwarzwald <>
Date: Sat Nov 14 2009 - 05:34:40 EST


I gave you the link to (at least part of) West's own discussion with Barr. -
I'd say you should give it a read if you haven't yet. It really is

Anyway, I don't think West is referring to that single line from Miller's
textbook, but from Miller's writings on this subject specifically - and as I
said, I'm unaware of them, so I can't testify to the accuracy of West's
claim here. Now, I will definitely agree that the transcript you provide has
Miller claiming that "utterly unguided and without purpose" is not something
science can say. But let me be specific: My point of bringing that claim up
was not to say "Aha, Miller is crossing the bounds between science and
philosophy". I don't care if Miller says that view is entirely philosophical
- if that's the "compatibility" being offered, leave me out of it.

I mention that only as an aside to the larger discussion, and with the
qualification that I don't even know if it's a view Miller actually claims
to hold. I do recall Ayala holding a similar view in the past, hence my
recent (pleasant) surprise at his stated views at Templeton's site.

On Fri, Nov 13, 2009 at 8:39 PM, Rich Blinne <> wrote:

> 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
> misconception?
> 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
> evolution.
> 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?
> You may.
> 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 is.
> 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 Sat Nov 14 05:35:02 2009

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