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Ken Miller's "Random and Undirected" Testimony

Yesterday, Cornelius Hunter critiqued at IDtheFuture some of Brown University biologist Kenneth R. Miller's theologically-charged arguments for evolution during the Kitzmiller trial. Miller is a widely promoted theistic evolutionist, and thus served as the plaintiffs leadoff expert witness for biology, evolution, and theistic evolutionism during the Kitzmiller trial. Judge Jones apparently found Miller's existence so compelling that the Judge ruled that evolution and "belief in the existence of a supreme being" are compatible, and ruled that any belief otherwise is "utterly false."

Yet significant portions of Miller's testimony about the anti-religious descriptions of evolution contained in his textbooks were factually challenged (i.e. wrong). On the second day of the Kitzmiller trial, Miller was confronted about theologically charged statements about evolution in one of his biology textbooks, which stated that "[e]volution is random and undirected." Miller defended himself by claiming that the theological language about evolution in his textbook was a "mistake," and was added by his co-author, and that the statement "[e]volution is random and undirected" appears only in the 3rd edition of his "elephant textbook," Biology. Miller said, "that statement was not in the first edition the book, it was not in the second edition, it was not in the fourth edition." Yet contrary to Miller's testimony, Miller has produced numerous textbooks which apparently contain anti-theistic language describing evolution. What's going on here?

The facts are very different from Miller's testimony. All of the first four editions of his "elephant" Biology textbook contain the phrase "[e]volution is random and undirected." Moreover, other versions of Miller & Levine textbooks, unmentioned during the testimony, contain language which is even more hostile towards religion than that in the elephant Biology textbook. Two editions of his Biology: Discovering Life state, "Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism." This contradicts Miller's testimony that only one of his eleven textbook editions contained anti-religious language. In reality, six of them contain anti-religious language.

Miller's "Get Out of Theological Statements Free Card"
On day two of the trial, Ken Miller was asked about his characterizations of evolution in old versions of his textbooks during cross examination:

Q. Sir, is evolution random and undirected?

A. I don't think 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, science cannot answer the second part of the question. I think that's a more accurate way to put it.

(Transcript of Testimony of Kenneth Miller, Day 2 of Kitzmiller Trial (Sept. 27, 2005), pgs. 4-8.)

Miller had already given himself a "Get Out of Theological Statements Free Card" during his direct testimony by noting that "everything that a scientist writes or says is not necessarily a scientific statement or a scientific publication." (Transcript of Testimony of Ken Miller, Day 1 of Kitzmiller Trial [Sept. 26, 2005], pg. 56.) (I actually think that's a very fair statement on the part of Ken Miller, and I only wish that Judge Jones had afforded the same courtesy to ID proponents by not conflating the personal religious beliefs of Michael Behe with the claims of ID theory.)

Miller on Trial
Miller was then confronted with the fact that the phrase "Evolution is random and undirected" appears in the 1995 edition of his textbook:

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. ... So yes, sir, it does say that.

(Transcript of Testimony of Kenneth Miller, Day 2 of Kitzmiller Trial (Sept. 27, 2005), pgs. 4-8.)

What's most interesting is Miller's explanation for the presence of that statement. Here 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 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 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.

(Transcript of Testimony of Kenneth Miller, Day 2 of Kitzmiller Trial (Sept. 27, 2005), pgs. 4-8.)

An Elaboration of Problems with the Testimony
There may be no reason to doubt that Miller thought he was telling the truth and that the whole phrase "evolution is random and undirected" was indeed his co-author Joseph Levine's fault. Nonetheless, Miller's recollection of the facts appears starkly incorrect on a number of points.

Firstly, Miller claims "that statement was not in the first edition the book, it was not in the second edition, it was not in the fourth edition." Miller is correct that the 1995 version is the third edition of that textbook. But he's wrong to say it only appears in the third edition because the statement "Evolution is random and undirected" (emphasis in original) appears in all of the first four versions of this textbook! The 1991, 1993, 1995, and 1998 editions all state on page 658 that "Evolution is random and undirected" (emphasis in original), and they also all state on that same page, "evolution works without either plan or purpose."

Miller's account thus cannot be completely accurate. Miller told the Judge:

"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."

The statement "evolution is random and undirected" does appear after the third edition; it is found in the fourth edition (1998). What really happened?

Secondly, Miller claims that only one edition of his textbooks had problematic language, stating "this is the only edition of any of the books that we have published, and probably eleven different editions, that contains that statement". This is also a false statement. If Miller has indeed published eleven versions of his textbooks, as he says, then there are materialistic descriptions of evolution in six of them:

(1) "[E]volution works without either plan or purpose ... Evolution is random and undirected."
(Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine, pg. 658 (1st edition, Prentice Hall, 1991); emphasis in original)

(2)"[E]volution works without either plan or purpose ... Evolution is random and undirected."
(Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine, pg. 658 (2nd edition, Prentice Hall, 1993); emphasis in original)

(3)"[E]volution works without either plan or purpose ... Evolution is random and undirected."
(Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine, pg. 658 (3rd edition, Prentice Hall, 1995); emphasis in original)

(4)"[E]volution works without either plan or purpose ... Evolution is random and undirected."
(Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine, pg. 658 (4th edition, Prentice Hall, 1998); emphasis in original)

Additionally, Miller's textbook, Biology: Discovering Life contains language which is even more anti-religious than that of his elephant textbook, Biology. Consider the 5th and 6th instances below:

(5) "Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless--a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us." (Biology: Discovering Life, by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (1st edition, D.C. Heath and Co., 1992), pg. 152; emphasis in original)

(6) "Darwin knew that accepting his theory required believing in philosophical materialism, the conviction that matter is the stuff of all existence and that all mental and spiritual phenomena are its by-products. Darwinian evolution was not only purposeless but also heartless--a process in which the rigors of nature ruthlessly eliminate the unfit. Suddenly, humanity was reduced to just one more species in a world that cared nothing for us. The great human mind was no more than a mass of evolving neurons. Worst of all, there was no divine plan to guide us."
(Biology: Discovering Life, by Joseph S. Levine & Kenneth R. Miller (2nd edition, D.C. Heath and Co., 1994), p. 161; emphasis in original)

To Miller's credit, the latest editions of his textbook do not seem to contain such anti-theological language. But if Ken Miller has published 11 textbook versions, then it remains the case that more than half (6 / 11) of his textbooks have contained theologically charged language like evolution is "purposeless," "heartless," "required believing in philophical materialism," "random," "undirected," or "works without either plan or purpose" because it is implied there is "no divine plan."

Why did Miller claim that only one version of his textbook made such statements? I'll let the reader decide, but perhaps he already explained it to us: "what you're looking at, sir, is a mistake." There sure have been a lot of mistakes.

Note: I own each textbook quoted above and can provide documentation of these quotes upon request. My e-mail is cluskin@discovery.org.