Monday, August 18, 2008

Ken Miller at Chautauqua

 
The Chautauqua Institution is the ideal place for Ken Miller. Almost everyone here is religious and accepts science. I'm surrounded by theistic evolutionists.

Miller gave his usual talk about Intelligent Design and why it's not science. He described his role in the Dover trial. He spent some time explaining why Americans are more inclined to reject evolution. Basically it's the reason he explains in his book Only a Theory; namely that Americans are more independent than the citizens of other countries. This independence, and lack of respect for authority, is what makes America the greatest scientific nation in the world but, ironically, it also leads to the rejection of scientific authority by a majority of citizens. He didn't mention how scientists like Darwin and Linnaeus managed to do so well without ever visiting America.

He mentioned that he is religious and that science is compatible with religion (in his opinion). He did not explain his version of theistic evolution.



13 comments :

  1. "Americans are more independent than the citizens of other countries. This independence, and lack of respect for authority,"

    Hah! I see more and more authority and power games everywhere I go in this country (government and business-wise), and the right-wing keeps voting for it in the name of "security".

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  2. As of when were sheep 'more independent'??

    Also, the 'lack of respect for authority' seems like another myth.
    Just that the 'authorities' Americans seem to REALLY respect is power, money, and influence.

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  3. "Americans are more independent than the citizens of other countries. This independence, and lack of respect for authority."

    It would be truer to say that the loci of authority are more widely distributed in the US than in Canada or other countries. Here in Canada, while authority and control are distributed (every university president is his/her institution's BOSS), there just aren't as many loci of authority.

    Because the US is so much larger you have many more opportunities to serve a BOSS with whom you feel compatible. This is the definition of freedom: a wider choice of BOSSES. Americans seem to understand this very well; they move from BOSS to BOSS more often because they can. Canadians move a little less because they have less BOSS choice.

    "Voting with your feet" is one way of putting it.

    I wish Canada were more like the US. You'd still serve some BOSS or other, but at least you'd have more choice.

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  4. He mentioned that he is religious and that science is compatible with religion (in his opinion). He did not explain his version of theistic evolution.

    Did anyone present ask him to?

    :)

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  5. The US is the greatest scientific nation because of the sheer mass of non-conformists within its borders. And it is the non-conformists who drive science and technology. When is the last time you saw a S&T driven powerhouse emerge from Alabama or South Carolina. Administrators in the Sun Belt may be progressive, but they have to contend with ill-read/educated legislators and constituents. Florida isn't finding it easy to grow a bioscience cluster. In every one of these states of the South and the West the universities remain the oases of sanity. But outside them ignorance rages freely. U.Colorado Boulder may house Nobel Laureates, but the rest of the state is determined to run its resources dry, building up vast megachurch properties.

    Larry, I am sure you know that the belief profile of scientists in the US is very different from that of the general population. So the characteristics of the general population cannot be used to explain the success of scientists.

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  6. Anyway Larry,

    Miller is with the team (Templeton Foundation) willing to 'rescue Darwin'. I'm not kidding you.

    Rescue Darwin!

    Now, if americans are really so much "independence fond" how could they support religion's dictatorship, going all the way through their everyday life, to the point to tell them with whom, under what circumstances, and for what purpose they must have sex? (and not on Sundays :-) )

    If you meet Miller, please ask him the question.

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  7. "Voting with your feet" is one way of putting it.

    If anonymous' hypothesis is correct, we would expect the average US citizen to move house more often and further distances than the average Canadian citizen, and presumably change jobs (switch "BOSSES") much more often. Is this the case? Surely those data exist.

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  8. Dr. Moran, I'm surprised that you attended my talk and managed to misrepresent it so thoroughly. I spent nearly all of the talk explaining why ID was bogus science, and then moved along to the way in which ID advocates have used the lingo of the old academic left to depict science as a form of ideology. You didn't mention any of this. Then you said: "He spent some time explaining why Americans are more inclined to reject evolution. Basically it's the reason he explains in his book Only a Theory; namely that Americans are more independent than the citizens of other countries."

    No, I didn't. And that's not what I said in my book, either. Most Americans reject evolution for religious reasons (I've never been shy about saying that). What I actually wrote in my book was "The willingness of Americans to reject established authority has played a major role in the way that local activists have managed to push ideas such as scientific creationism and ID into local schools" [p.12].

    Got that? I didn't say or write that the reason Americans embrace ID was our culture of individualism.... rather I said that's why its advocates feel freer to reject scientific and educational authorities as they try to push it into schools. Religion is the motivation (clearly!), but our culture of individualism and disrespect makes it politically possible to act on that motivation so effectively (as we have seen in Kansas, Ohio, Louisiana, etc..).

    And, to respond to John Farrell's comment, I am not a "theistic evolutionist." Rather, I am an evolutionist who happens also to be a theist. I do not use theism as a causal explanation for anything in science, including evolution. Nor would any scientist.


    Sincerely,

    Ken Miller

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  9. Re Ken Miller

    1. I think it would be more accurate to describe Prof. Miller as one who accepts methodological naturalism as a scientific principal and who, at the same time, accepts philosophical theism as his philosophy, unlike Prof. Moran who accepts philosophical naturalism as his philosophy. It appears to me that Myers, Moran, and Dawkins agree with the creationists that methodological naturalism implies philosophical naturalism.

    2. If Prof. Miller is still around, I wonder if he would be willing to offer an opinion on crackergate (e.g. Myers/Donahue).

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  10. Dr Miller,

    What a surprise! As your identity isn't confirmed I'm almost tempted to check by e-mail.

    Anyway, maybe Larry will do so.
    Let me slightly rephrase my question to you:

    Now, if americans are really so much "willing to reject established authority" how could they support religion's dictatorship, going all the way through their everyday life, to the point to tell them with whom, under what circumstances, and for what purpose they must have sex? (and not on Sundays :-) )
    Not much change, just the emphasized part.

    And concerning the previous discussion we had about catholics as creationists (whatever the adjective used to distinguish from YECs), I invite you to read the Pope's concerns about abandoning the doctrine of creation in theology, as expressed a couple of weeks ago at Bressanone.

    Best Wishes

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  11. ken miller says,

    Then you said: "He spent some time explaining why Americans are more inclined to reject evolution. Basically it's the reason he explains in his book Only a Theory; namely that Americans are more independent than the citizens of other countries."

    No, I didn't. And that's not what I said in my book, either. Most Americans reject evolution for religious reasons (I've never been shy about saying that). What I actually wrote in my book was "The willingness of Americans to reject established authority has played a major role in the way that local activists have managed to push ideas such as scientific creationism and ID into local schools" [p.12].


    And four sentences later you say, "And all this has happened despite clear and sometimes determined opposition from the 'scientific establishment.' In other countries citizens might have drawn back when university presidents and nationally recognized scientists said they were wrong—but not in America."

    I interpret this to mean that the creation-evolution debate is more of a problem in America than in, say, Great Britain, because Americans have less respect for authority. They are more individualistic.

    In your book, as in your lecture on Monday, you begin with the story of your British friend who can't understand why there's so much of a problem in America. Here's how you describe it in your book.

    "Why if this happened anywhere in Britain, we'd simply dispatch a couple of dons from Oxford or Cambridge." When these leaned individuals arrived in the provinces, he went on, they'd lay out their university degrees and distinctions for the locals to admire. Then they would explain the standing that evolution held in the scientific community, in which they held positions of eminence and prestige, and that would be that. The local board would apologize, thank them kindly for their time, and then put its house back in order. Why wouldn't that work in the States? he wondered? I had a good laugh in response.

    You then proceed to describe why creationism is a problem in America in spite of the fact that scientists say that's it's a pile of baloney. You point out, quite correctly, that the issue is complicated—and that religion is at the heart of the problem—then you introduce your explanation with ...

    To understand America's 'civil war' over evolution, we have to examine remarkably similar questions about American science and culture. Is there something unique in the American character that bore the seeds of this conflict and provided fertile ground in which it could flourish? I think there is, and I'm not at all ashamed of that. In fact, I'm downright proud it it.

    So, what is it that you're so proud of that is a unique part of American culture but nevertheless bears the seed of the conflict between creationism and evolution and "provides fertile ground in which it could flourish?"

    The very next sentence—presumably the begining of your answer—is also the first sentence of a new section entitled "Science in America." The sentence is "America is the greatest scientific nation in the world."

    You then present two pages of explanation for why America is so much better at science than the rest of the world concluding with,

    And there you have it. Dispespect—that's the key. ... A healthy disrespect for authority is part of the American character, and it permeates our institutions, including the institution of science. For decades the United States was the one country in which, for a young scientist, getting ahead did not mean following the lead of a supervisor, a laboratory head, or a departmental chair.

    Presumably this American individualism and disrepect for authority is why the British method of disatching dons to educate the "locals" won't work in America. I interpret this entire section of your book as an argument for why creationism is more of a problem in America than in other countries. You are proud of this individualism and disrespect for authority in spite of the fact that it means creationism thrives because creationists also reject authority.

    Have I misinterpreted your book and your lecture? Did you have another explanation for why creationism is a problem in America and not in other countries?

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  12. ken miller says,

    I do not use theism as a causal explanation for anything in science, including evolution. Nor would any scientist.

    Really? Then how do you explain your claim that the universe is fine-tuned for life? To me, it looks an awful lot like you're invoking God as a causal explanation.

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  13. About these quotes of Dr Miller (that Larry brought to our attention)

    "The conclusion is unavoidable, robust, and scientific. The elegant universe is a universe of life. And the name of the grand design of life is evolution." (p. 134)

    "Science draws it meaning and value from the search for the truth about the natural world, and in this context it has told us, at least so far, the we are every bit the 'children' of the universe that 'Disiderate' assured us we were. Believers and nonbelievers can agree on this element of science, and then part company as to how it is to be interpreted."

    As paleobiologist I can say that I do not agree with that "element of science". First, it is not scientifically enlightening. Certainly everything has happened such that we are here, but that does not mean it could not have been otherwise. Any notion that fails to guide new lines of research or of thinking is of little scientific utility. In this case, all these ideas of "we fit the universe like a glove" tend to be more science-stoppers than science-boosters.

    Second, there is no such thing as the scientific agreement that Miller talks about. I for one don't think conditions for life are all that common in the universe.
    I won't go into more detail , but I also don't agree that humans would be bound to evolve in any planet like earth.

    Ultimately, Miller gets what he deserves: Moran flips the argument
    on him to say science endorses atheism

    It takes two to tango. I'll leave you guys to it.

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