Archive for Sunday, November 5, 2006

Theology, biology

November 5, 2006


To the editor:

Leonard Krishtalka might well be forgiven if he inadvertently misrepresented the theology of biologist Kenneth Miller, who spoke at Kansas University regarding intelligent design and faith versus reason. I attended that talk and, while Miller's presentation of the anti-ID case was crystal clear, his attempt to reconcile his Catholicism with his science was not.

To call evolution the Big Bang, and all the doings of science the gradual discovery of natural processes God set in motion, is no resolution to the problem. Miller never said on what basis, if not hard-nosed reason, he concludes that such a creator exists, nor did he elect to expand on how, if at all, that prime mover still intervenes in the natural world since kick-starting nature so long ago. Does Miller reject such scientifically implausible ideas as virgin birth, resurrection of the dead, selves outside of brains, transubstantiation, and other standard, miraculous Catholic doctrines? He didn't touch on these while speaking here.

Perhaps the answer came when he ran a clip of his appearance on TV's satirical "Colbert Report." Asked whether God might have fabricated evidence of evolution just to fool us, Miller said he didn't choose to believe in a deceptive god. So God is, finally, whatever Miller chooses to believe He is? No professional theologian could have said it better.

Bruce S. Springsteen,



just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 11 years, 7 months ago

"Today's science certianly cannot explain some of that phenomenon!"

But attributing such unexplained phenomena to a supernatural power is not science, no matter whether it's done by someone who claims to be a scientist or a catholic priest.

yourworstnightmare 11 years, 7 months ago

Great point, Bruce. Miller's attempted resolution of his catholic faith with his science was muddied and inconsistent.

For a scientist, muddied and inconsistent thinking are anathema, but it is par for the course for theologians and deists.

imastinker 11 years, 7 months ago

I don't understand what you are trying to say. He believes that his faith in God can be found through science in the natural environment. There are many things there which you pick at very thoroughly that science has not even explored, much less disproved.

I was not there at the talk - but you expected him to discuss his rationale in believing in God? This isn't science, and is not tangible. How is he supposed to do that?

I don't know why pople believe that science and religion have to be mutually exclusive. There is a whole field of scientists that believe that religion can be fond through quantum mechanics and the odd behaviour of atoms at the subatomic level. Today's science certianly cannot explain some of that phenomenon!

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 7 months ago

"... Asked whether God might have fabricated evidence of evolution just to fool us, Miller said he didn't choose to believe in a deceptive god." Now that's funny. I've contended that the God I learned about in church seemed to be just that. Its in the bible. 'Specially the old testiment.

Of course it is always funny to listen to people talk about things that they couldn't have any knowledge of as though they have.

roger_o_thornhill 11 years, 7 months ago

Hey, what do you have against dentists? Oh deists, my bad.

imastinker 11 years, 7 months ago

OK, since nobody else is commenting on this one, let's get off topic.

I think intelligent design is closely related to this topic. I am slightly confused about why there is such a stink regarding intelligent design - and I'm curious to hear what you think.

Much of the Old Testament is oral history that was written many years after the fact. The populace was uneducated, so mny things were put into terms that were undersandeable, and much of the details are not to be read literally. Creation is one of these. 7 days did not mean that it was seven days, but you could not tell people 350 million years. That doesn't make sense to someone who can't read or write.

So, to me, intelligent design is evolution, but with a twist. I believe God used evolution to create the world. It's the same as above. Science tells us how things happened that we already know happened.

I don't know what you mean by using creation as a litmus test for scientists. If they are doing that, it's silly.

imastinker 11 years, 7 months ago

Bozo -

That's just it - attributing the unknown to faith is not science. It's faith. This guy is trying to resolve his faith using science, and since I don't see anyone criticizing his science, I can only assume that the problem you have with him is his religion.

Patriotman's example of the big bang is a perfect example. Scientists believe that the big bang created the universe. Me too. I believe God caused the big bang. How is that muddied and inconsistent?

gr 11 years, 7 months ago

"Creation is one of these. 7 days did not mean that it was seven days, but you could not tell people 350 million years. That doesn't make sense to someone who can't read or write."

So, could you go through the days outlined in the first chapter of Genesis explaining how it would fit in with each day being several million years?

craigers 11 years, 7 months ago

Intelligent design is the best label for a process that evolution has no hope for explaining. Gradual change (evolution) can't explain the Cambrian explosion. You can't get all at least twenty different phyla all at once and claim gradual change (evolution) brought that about. Science arrives at the most plausible explanation, given what the data shows. If that means the most logical explanation is a creator, then so be it. Too bad too many people remove that from being a choice based upon its implications.

imastinker 11 years, 7 months ago

That's exactly what I am trying to say. Of course it's not a scientific fact. Science does not disprove it either. It can't. Science only tells us how, it cannot tell us why. That's what religion does. So what if we don't agree on the cause - the facts are still the same, and the source is still as reliable.

I still do not understand how a scientist that believes in God is less of a scientist than an athiest.

Kodiac 11 years, 7 months ago

Hey Craiggers,

I was wondering if you could elaborate on what exactly is the Cambrian "explosion". Be sure to include what is exactly is known and not understood, the principles of fossilization, the time frames, level of actual diversity, phyla analysis of species, site comparisons, geochemistry, etc etc. I'm sure this will be very easy since you seem to have such a good handle on this "process"......

craigers 11 years, 7 months ago

HGA, you can call it what you want or give the intelligent creator a funny name. It doesn't matter to me. The fact is that the evidence doesn't point to gradual changes explaining the Cambrian explosion, but quite the opposite. I prefer to name God as the intelligent designer but that doesn't nullify what the data is saying.

craigers 11 years, 7 months ago

Did I hit a nerve Kodiac? Others refer to it as the big bang. I don't have to explain it to you though, since you already have all the information you need to rule out intelligent design.

craigers 11 years, 7 months ago

HGA, it seems like people rule out intelligent design due to there not being enough evidence to support it. I could see everybody dismissing intelligent design based on the information back when Darwin made this hypothesis of evolution. He was on brink of a hugely popular hypothesis. At that point there was a lot of evidence to suggest evolution. However, as time has gone by there have been more discoveries as the "Big bang" that have created a difficulty for evolution to create such large variances in species. If you look at the question of how we came to be and place Evolution on one side and Intelligent Design(creationism) on the other, what causes doubt on one should increase the case for the other. If more and more information points away from gradual changes causing the complex creatures we see today, then it is data, it is evidence for Intelligent design is it not? I would enjoy hearing your thoughts.

Kodiac 11 years, 7 months ago


Hit a nerve? Huh? You seemed to be indicating that the Cambrian explosion was support for design and I merely asked you to provide some further details on that matter. I know of noone in the scientific fields that refer to the Cambrian "explosion as the "Big Bang". I suggest you refer to biology and physics fields before you start expounding on these two concepts. You might want to start by bringing your knowledge up to the present moment rather than trying to bring up some argument back from Darwin's day. The Cambrian "explosion" as you call it is a time frame that is covering more than 30 million years and still climbing as new data is being discovered associated with these sites such as the Burgess Shale. Certainly more the enough time for evolution to occur.

And as HGA points out, showing gaps in the data for evolutionary theory is not in of itself support for another specific theory. As I have said and I will say it again...

If you want to be taken seriously leave your armchairs, enter a laboratory, and demonstrate that your approach to science works better than the way it is currently done. The test is simple: Go discover something. Stop with the armchair theorizing, the whining about naturalistic bias, and the empty charges against well established branches of modern science. Instead, make progress on some problem that has stymied mainstream scientists. If you succeed, hey more power to you and your approach will be accepted. Otherwise it will be rejected. Everything else you bring up is just irrelevant PR crap. Do the science Craiggers instead of this Rodney Dangerfield "We get no respect".......

Kodiac 11 years, 7 months ago

Oh and Craiggers,

You might want to review some history too. Geologists as long ago as William Buckland (1784-1856) realised that a dramatic step change in the fossil record occurred at the beginning of what we now call the Cambrian. For Darwin, the apparent appearance in the fossil record of many animal groups with few or no antecedents caused great trouble indeed he devoted a substantial chapter of The Origin of Species to this problem. So Darwin actually struggled with the Cambrian "explosion" which has undergone considerable changes in concept over time because of new data being generated since Darwin's time.

Kodiac 11 years, 7 months ago


If still opens my eyes to work in a lab. I often find myself making false connections or jumping to conclusions that are wrong as a result of me not fully understanding my data. It does teach me though to examine what it is I am actually observing and to question my ideas and hypotheses. I do that sometimes on here and I hope people will correct me if they see something where I have misunderstood or am misrepresenting something.

BOE 11 years, 7 months ago

" So God is, finally, whatever Miller chooses to believe He is? No professional theologian could have said it better. "


Suits me.

IMO, the same "hard-nosed reason" that recognizes the inherent dangers of forcing theology into the science classrooms of public schools and illustrates the inanity of imbuing every instance of natural phenomena with theological explantions, simultaneously argues the pointlessness of Miller having to defend as scientifically plausible, biblical miracles, or for that matter all things theological.

Miller's refusal to create gaps or chasms, creates frustration for the wedge wielders.

Good for him; Great for the 1st Amendment and science education.

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