Monday, September 11, 2006

Miller at KU part 3 - Morning Discussion Session

The Friday morning following the presentation, Dr. Miller was gracious enough to have another Q&A session in a much smaller and more personal setting. At the time I started, I seemed to be the only student in attendance. The rest of the audience was well dressed professors. Fortunately, SOMA president Andrew Stangl later arrived.

As I did before, I'll post the paraphrased questions in italics, and the paraphrased answers in normal text.

Q1. Seven out of the ten expert witnesses for the defense in the Dover trial backed out. Why did they do this? Was it pressure from the Discovery Institute? Did they not like the battleground and if that's the case, which battleground do you think they would prefer?

A1. To qualify as an expert witness, one must first write a statement roughly equilavent to a Master's thesis. Dr. Miller obviously did this, as well as the seven members of the Discovery Institute and the other three witnesses for the defense (not directly affiliated with the Discovery Institute). However, not only did the Discovery Institute witnesses eagerly file theirs, but after reading Dr. Miller's, they wrote reubttal papers showing that, at least initially they were extremely enthusiastic about assisting with the trial.

However, come time for deposition, Dembski's lawyer simply walked in, told them that he would not be testifying and left. They then flew to (I believe) Seattle where the next witness from the Discovery Institute did the same. From there, they called ahead before flying across the country just to find out that they were stood up. Sure enough, the rest of the Discovery Institute fellows had dropped out. This begs the question: "Why just the witnesses from the Discovery Institute and not Behe and the other two?"

Discovery Institute claims it was "personal decisions", that the Discovery Institute never agreed with the Dover School Board, and that the seven witnesses that backed out wanted to have their personal lawyers take the deposition instead of lawyers from the Thomas Moore Law Center, who would not allow this.

Dr. Miller held that this claim was inadequate and still suggests that the Discovery Institute pressured them to back out noting that only those who were on the Discovery Institute payroll withdrew. Additionally, Dr. Miller pointed out that while the Discovery Institute claims not to have ever advocated the teaching of Intelligent Design, this is directly contradicted by a C-SPAN debate in which a lawyer for the school board revealed a document published by the Discovery Institute and written by its head which was a "How to" for teaching Intelligent Design in the classroom.

The position Dr. Miller holds is that, having heard of the strong religious statements the school board made (ie. "2000 years ago, someone died on a cross for you..."), saw a train wreck coming, jumped off and then denied that they were ever on board.

Ironically, during the Dover trial, the Discovery Institute still sent Casey Luskin to stand outside and during recesses spin things for the press.

(AA Additional notes: I think it should also be noted that the former head of the school board in Dover also came forth this past spring and revealed that the Discovery Institute had been in direct contact with them, pushing them forward until they realized the school board had screwed things up.

Also, I agree with Dr. Miller's assertion given that, if the DI were truly in opposition to the position of the school board, they wouldn't have felt the need to cry "activist judge" and publish their "Trapising into Evolution" book. The DI needs to make up their mind. Or are they do like John Kerry and "waffle"?)

Q2. In the talk last night, you said that science being naturalistic dates back to St. Augustus. However, can we not trace this naturalistic notion back even further to Aquanius of the Greek?

A2. Absolutely. The naturalistic nature goes back much futher. I just brought up St. Augustus as an example of a religious figure who could seperate the two. Interestingly, the Kansas School Board claims to be wanting to return to a "traditional" (ie. non-naturalistic) definition of science, but given how far the naturalistic roots go back, this would be incorrect.

Q3. After writing "Origin of Species", Darwin dropped references of God from other works. Is it not unfair to not mention this in your talk last night and thus pretend that Darwin was a highly spiritual person?

A3. The closing quote wasn't meant to prove that Darwin was spiritual, but only that the two can coexist.

That being said, the phrase, "put by the breath of the Creator" did not appear in "Origin of Species" until the second edition and remained there through the sixth and final edition in Darwin's life.

However, to be fair, Darwin supposedly never set foot in a church after his daughter's death. One personal letter describes him as an agnostic. But other lettrs contradict this. Thus, there's no clear consistency.

Q4. What's next? How do we quickly sweep ID?

A4. First off, stop letting the ID crowd define terms incorrectly. They frequently say that evolution is "random" but this is about as far from the truth as you can get. If we let them make this claim, it makes people uncomfortable because it makes no moral implications.

But isn't assuming this some sort of hubris?

Dawkins would argue it's a byproduct of evolution. However, it's very hard, if not impossible, to distinguish such thigns from evolutionary baggage. Thus there's no way to make a real scientific argument.

Q5. Who are your favourite contemporary theologians and what are your views on abortion/stem cell research?

A5. Garry Wills ("Why I'm a Catholic" and "What Jesus Meant")
CS Lewis ("Mere Christianity")

In regards to abortion, Catholic doctrine holds its wrong, but then again, they also hold that divorce is wrong. But we don't force this on everyone. The same should hold true for abortion.

During a lunch Dr. Miller had with five bishops, he told them that, if cells are extracted from a developing embryo early enough, the remaining ones can grow perfectly normally. In fact, this is done routinely to screen for genetic diseases. The bishops agreed that in this case, everything is fine and that there would be no moral difference than giving blood. The only catch is that the embryo cannot give consent, but given that they do not claim to know when the soul comes in, it's still a grey area.

In regards to homosexuality, it is extremely complex biologically. The gay community is divided over whether or not they want to know if it's genetic. If it is, some feel that would be good because then it would be no different than having a certain skin color, but others worry that if it is, then it would be a genetic disease and try to "cure" it. Meanwhile, congress is reluctant to fund such research, so not much is known yet.

Q6. Roughly how many scientists are religious?

A6. Recent survey says about 42%. This was about the same as it was in another survey conducted in 1917.

Q7. How should we deal with the biblical literalists who refuse to acknowledge science?

A7. Get them to admit that their standpoint is entirely theological. Science doesn't disprove their position, but should make them question how they interpret things. Then demonstrate that the two (science and religion) can coexist.

However, it's generally not worth trying to convince such people. They're generally a lost cause and the ID debate is more on convincing the middle ground.

Q8. So what do scientists need to do?

A8. Science needs more popularizers like Carl Sagan & Mr. Wizard. The scientific community needs to stop looking down their noses at such people.

Q9. (From the Angry Astronomer) In your talk last night, you said that the theists were "shooting at the wrong target" and that they should "attack the anti-theists". Being a member of the atheists group on the KU campus, this has generated quite a lot of stir and I was wondering if you'd intended to use such militaristic language or if you had some other way of stating this?

A9. The Thursday night was the first time that this part of the talk had been included and thus, the wording was probably not the best of choices. What we really need is for everyone to stop using scientific arguments to prove/disprove the existance of a creator and get back to a philosophical battleground. I'm open to ideas on better ways to word things.

(AA Additional Notes: As Dr. Miller said, this was his first time including this particular part to his statements. In this video, Dr. Miller gives nearly the same talk, same jokes and all, but without the bit that's causing controversy.)

Q10. (From SOMA president Andrew Stangl) How do you seperate miracles and science? In effect, how can you accept something like the virgin birth when you know, scientifically, its impossible?

A10. In such instances, science has no evidence. Thus, science cannot say one way or another, ie. it's agnostic. This is where faith and spiritualism come into play. When we have scripture with miracles, we must choose whether it is truly literal, or something that we need to interpret. However, too many scientists try to claim that in those cases, where science doesn't know, that it must be wrong.

Q11. Are we making a mistake focusing on just evolution when the attack on science is much more broad?

A11. No. The wedge document explicitly defines the goals of the ID movement. Scince it concentrates on evolution as the spearhead for the entire movement, that's what we must focus on too.

Q12: If people of faith (especially biblical literalsts) rever the world as God's creation, why aren't they at the forefront of conservation?

A12: The Bible enjoins humans are "stewards". This can be viewed as meaning "caretakers" or "ownership", the latter suggesting man can do whatever they want. The scientific community should have drawn them in long ago and are starting to do so now. Joining the faith and the science at this point might also be a good thing because it could lead to a healing of the evolution wars.

In my next post, I'll start giving my opinons on the things Dr. Miller said in these talks, as well as commentary on the buzz in the blogsphere.


Anonymous said...

Since I have just blogged three negatives to religion, why is Miller not aware that the Old Testament (Jewish Penteuch and Torah)of the Christian/Catholic Holy Bible is a 5,766 year old Hebrew Desert Tribal oral/written book for, by, and of the Hebrew Peoples? That's all it is. We don't include all of the other, just as valid, mythological oral and written materials of all other tribes, peoples, and civilizations going back to the beginning of the Neolithic Age about 8,500 B.C.E.?
These works are available to be researched.

Galactic Chet said...

Since I have just blogged three negatives to religion, why is Miller not aware that the Old Testament (Jewish Penteuch and Torah)of the Christian/Catholic Holy Bible is a 5,766 year old Hebrew Desert Tribal oral/written book for, by, and of the Hebrew Peoples? That's all it is. We don't include all of the other, just as valid, mythological oral and written materials of all other tribes, peoples, and civilizations going back to the beginning of the Neolithic Age about 8,500 B.C.E.?
These works are available to be researched.