Scientist addresses evolution and religion

April 19, 2013

By Margaret Cipriano ’15

For Dr. Kenneth Miller, professor of Biology at Brown University, the journey from cell biologist to evolutionary author has been filled with debates, courtrooms, television interviews and lectures like the one he presented at Bradley this month.

The road began when he was asked by a Christian student organization to debate Henry Morris, a creationist, in 1980 at Brown. Miller, a skilled public speaker, was reluctant at first but decided to take on Morris and his theories after listening to his lectures. “I thought he was misrepresenting religion as well as science,” Miller said of Morris.

He argued before 3,000 people at the university’s ice hockey rink and has taken on “science denial-ists” ever since. But Miller made it clear he’s not anti-religion. Quoting religious and scientific figures alike, he underscored how evolution merely enriches our understanding of life; it does not come into conflict with religious ideology.

“Faith and science are compatible. You can investigate nature using the same tools, same ways and come to the same conclusion. Science is a tool to see order and beauty,” he said.

Dr. Jacqueline Hogan, assistant professor and chair of the sociology department, introduced Miller as “the public guardian of evolution in America.” A highly regarded scientist and a Roman Catholic, Miller has published several books on the subject of evolution and religion. Bradley’s Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee sponsored his lecture.

“Miller was superb,” said senior civil engineering major Christopher Poore. “He was engaging, funny, illuminating, and respectful toward his audience. He is the perfect spokesperson between science and the public.”

Since his debate with Morris, Miller has contested intelligent design arguments. Recently, he played a key role in the historic 2004 court case of Kitzmiller et al v Dover Area School District—where 11 parents filed suit against the school district in Dover, Penn., for including intelligent design teachings in its biology curriculum.

“Intelligent design was created as an alternative to teaching evolution in classrooms,” Miller said. “The ‘icons’ of intelligent design and the idea that cells contain such complex structures that they couldn’t be produced by evolution was proven false.”

During his speech, Miller also sounded the alarm on how past attacks on evolution are becoming attacks on science itself. He said the country’s attitude toward science determines its future and without a positive and inquisitive approach toward science America is at risk of losing its position as a world leader. “Science denial comes from both sides of the political spectrum. We have lost the common denominator of knowledge. And without, knowledge we can’t bring opposing sides together,” he said.