Memos to Pope about Darwinism and Intelligent Design Should be Taken with a Grain of Salt
With the approach of Pope Benedict's informal gathering at his summer palace outside Rome this weekend to discuss Darwinism and intelligent design, an increasing number of public figures have taken to standing up, waving their hands, and saying, "Pope Benedict, please oh please come to such-and-such a conclusion." It's all just a little bit silly, but I want to get in on the action. First I want to say that Darwinist Kenneth Miller, a leading hand waver, doesn't seem to even know what intelligent design is (or at least pretends not to).
In his new piece in The Guardian he dismisses ID and then turns around and offers a condensed form of an intelligent design argument, one developed with sophistication and rigor in The Privileged Planet, a book co-authored by Discovery Institute senior fellows Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards.
Second, Miller, of Brown University, apparently lives in some other country than I do. From his lead paragraph, one would think most Americans embrace Darwinism and do not see clear evidence of design in the biological realm. But in fact, polls that distinguish the vague term "evolution" from Darwinism repeaetedly show that only about 10-20 percent of Americans accept Darwinism, and the vast majority of Americans see strong evidence of design in the living world.
Third, Miller reassures Catholics that Darwinism poses no metaphysical challenge to orthodox Christianity. But three separate editions of his high school biology textbook contain the following sentence:
"[E]volution works without either plan or purpose ... Evolution is random and undirected." Biology, by Kenneth R. Miller & Joseph S. Levine (1st ed., Prentice Hall, 1991), pg. 658; (3rd ed., Prentice Hall, 1995), pg. 658; (4th ed., Prentice Hall, 1998), pg. 658; emphasis in original.) At the Dover intelligent design trial, I witnessed him explain that his co-author, Levine, inserted this into an early edition, and as soon as it was brought to his attention, Miller successfully pressed to have it removed.
Miller added, "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." But in fact it was in the 1st, 3rd and 4th editions (Check yourself on the pages noted above). More fundamentally, the sentence isn't saying anything that leading Darwinists don't routinely say about their theory, whether it's the great majority of them who are atheists, like Richard Dawkins, or the odd religious one like Miller.
Next I want to encourage those meeting with the pope to actually study first hand the design arguments put forward by scientists and scholars like Michael Behe, William, Dembski, Stephen Meyer, Jonathan Wells and others. I also would recommend, somewhat immodestly, that they look at the newly released A Meaningful World, co-authored by Benjamin Wiker and myself.
If intelligent design is worth investigating at an informal gathering of the pope's former students, it's worth going directly to the proponents of intelligent design to study their best arguments.