Dr. Kenneth Miller and the Faith of Science

With so many commencement addresses each year, it's easy to miss the less publicized but equally important honors given to those who are not keynote speakers.

One of the most important of such honors among Catholic schools is the University of Notre Dame's Laetare Medal. According to the University, "Notre Dame’s Laetare Medal is presented annually to an American Catholic in recognition of outstanding service to the Church and society. It is considered the oldest and most prestigious award for American Catholics." (For more about the history of the Laetare Medal, including past recipients and their speeches, see here.)

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This year's Laetare Medal winner was Dr. Kenneth Miller, professor of biology at Brown University. To anyone who has studied the relationship between science and religion, Dr. Miller's name is no surprise. He is a first-rate scholar and the author of numerous books, including Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. His Brown University faculty page notes:

His research work on cell membrane structure and function has produced more than 60 scientific papers and reviews in leading journals, including CELL, Nature, and Scientific American. Miller is coauthor, with Joseph S. Levine, of four different high school and college biology textbooks which are used by millions of students nationwide. He has received 6 major teaching awards at Brown, the Presidential Citation of the American Institute for Biological Science (2005), and the Public Service Award of the American Society for Cell Biology (2006). In 2009 he was honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science for Advancing the Public Understanding of Science, and also received the Gregor Mendel Medal from Villanova University. In 2011 he was presented with the Stephen Jay Gould Prize by the Society for the Study of Evolution.

Dr. Miller has even appeared with his fellow Catholic, Stephen Colbert, on The Colbert Report (see here and here) to discuss religion, evolution, faith, and God.

In his brief address at Notre Dame, Dr. Miller identified two common myths that people hold about science. It was the second one that caught my eye. According to Dr. Miller:

The second great myth about science holds it to be the antithesis of faith. Ironically, this is a myth that serves both the enemies of faith and science very well. Science, we are told, is reason based upon evidence. And faith, we are assured, is belief without reason. As such, the two are locked forever in conflict and cannot coexist.
 

But such assertions ignore the very history of western science, which has its roots in a faith that views the study of nature and its mysteries as a way to praise and understand the glory of God. It was in that tradition that Newton unwove the rainbow and revealed the laws of motion, that Father Gregor Mendel established the science of genetics, and that Father Georges Lemaitre developed the theoretical foundation for cosmic expansion. Yes, it was a Catholic priest who first described the physics of the real big bang.

As many of you may know, there are three great medallions emblazoned on the Jordan Hall of Science here at Notre Dame. The biology medallion features a DNA double helix, and the words of the great geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” Dobzhansky, like Asa Gray, Darwin’s first great advocate in America, was a Christian.

Both of these evolutionary biologists realized that faith, far from being the antithesis of reason, is actually the source of reason. Science is built upon two great elements of faith. The first is that the universe is rational, understandable and accessible to human thought. The second is that truth is to be preferred to ignorance.

And I will tell you frankly: A faith that would require one to reject scientific reason is not a faith worth having.

Dr. Miller's comment about the faith within science is, of course, not widely shared by his contemporaries, especially those in elite institutions. But brave souls are out there, including Paul Davies, a well known professor of physics at Arizona State University. In 2007, Davies wrote a controversial op-ed in the New York Times ("Taking Science on Faith") in which he argued that

science has its own faith-based belief system. All science proceeds on the assumption that nature is ordered in a rational and intelligible way. You couldn’t be a scientist if you thought the universe was a meaningless jumble of odds and ends haphazardly juxtaposed. When physicists probe to a deeper level of subatomic structure, or astronomers extend the reach of their instruments, they expect to encounter additional elegant mathematical order. And so far this faith has been justified.

Dr. Miller has also written eloquently and with much conviction on the topic of God and evolution in responding to the ridiculous claims of University of Chicago biologist and Dawkinsesque atheist Jerry Coyne. Channeling themes of the Western philosophical tradition and even St. John Paul II's Fides et Ratio, Dr. Miller wrote:

One can indeed embrace science in every respect, and still ask a deeper question, one in which Coyne seems to have no interest. Why does science work? Why is the world around us organized in a way that makes itself accessible to our powers of logic and intellect? The true vow of a scientist is to practice honest and open empiricism in every aspect of his scientific work. That vow does not preclude the scientist from stepping back, acknowledging the limitations of scientific knowledge, and asking the deeper questions of why we are here, and whether existence has a purpose. Those questions are genuine and important, even if they are not scientific ones, and I believe they are worth answering. To me, those answers lie in faith. Others find their answers elsewhere, but our science is the same.

Congratulations to Dr. Miller. May his award inspire others to continue to their scientific explorations without having to deny the Creator who makes their work possible.

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J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
Some of what Dr. Miller says is very true but some of what he advocates is disturbing. The greatest driver of atheism in the current world is Darwinian evolution and Dr. Miller is a major supporter of it. A large percentage of students at Catholic universities enter them as believers and leave as atheists or at best agnostics. The main reason is Darwinism. The problem is that Darwinian evolution isn't even bad science it is not science at all but mainly a belief system that dominates how certain aspects of the natural world work, especially biology. I cannot tell you the number of times I have read or have heard the expression "selects" in reference to how a certain trait, capability or object arose. There is never any proof, only the assuming it must have happened this way by saying it was "selected." What most people don't know who assume that evolution happened by Darwinian processes is that there is a major movement to replace Darwinian processes for anything that is significant in evolution. Here is a quote by something called the Third Way/
The vast majority of people believe that there are only two alternative ways to explain the origins of biological diversity. One way is Creationism that depends upon supernatural intervention by a divine Creator. The other way is Neo-Darwinism, which has elevated Natural Selection into a unique creative force that solves all the difficult evolutionary problems. Both views are inconsistent with significant bodies of empirical evidence and have evolved into hard-line ideologies. There is a need for a more open “third way” of discussing evolutionary change based on empirical observations. Even today, the general public, and many scientists, are not aware of decades of research in evolutionary science, molecular biology and genome sequencing which provide alternative answers to how novel organisms have originated in the long history of life on earth. This web site is dedicated to making the results of that research available and to offering a forum to expose novel scientific thinking about the evolutionary process. The DNA record does not support the assertion that small random mutations are the main source of new and useful variations. We now know that the many different processes of variation involve well regulated cell action on DNA molecules. Genomes merge, shrink and grow, acquire new DNA components, and modify their structures by well-documented cellular and biochemical processes. Most of the scientists referenced on this web site have come to a wide range of conclusions about different aspects of evolutionary change. Many see evolution as a complex process with distinct mechanisms and stages rather than a phenomenon explainable by a small number of principles. The divergences and multiplicity of ideas, opinions and theories on this website are necessary since many fields of evolutionary biology remain relatively unexplored.
http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com/ Of course none of the proposed alternatives to Darwinian processes by the Third Way have any scientific support for the origin of novelty either. But at least they are clearing the air a little. And this is something that all Catholic Universities should be at the forefront in recognizing. There is also a fourth way which is not mentioned.
Matt Emerson
3 years 4 months ago

Professor Kenneth Miller has read the comments of J Cosgrove (see Mr. Cosgrove's comments, below) and has given me permission to post his response. 

What follows is from Dr. Miller:

 I will respond to the many points made in J. Cosgrove’s comments, in order :

1) Cosgrove asserts that “Darwinism” is the main reason that students enter as believers but leave Catholic Universities as atheists or agnostics. I’m unaware of any study demonstrating that, and none is cited in his comment. I would suggest that disillusionment with the institutional Church, especially in the handling of clerical sexual abuse of children, is at least as great a factor.

2) His definition of “Darwinism” as a belief system is not one I recognize as a biologist. Evolution is a well-supported scientific theory that explains the origin of species and the emergence of biological diversity. Evolutionary mechanisms as they are understood today are quite different from Darwin’s original ideas, so it is difficult to understand what Cosgrove means by Darwin-“ism.”  Unless, of course, by attaching the –ism to Darwin’s name he wishes to imply that evolution is ideological rather than scientific. He is right on point when he criticizes the tendency for some academics to construct just-so stories as to how a particular trait was “selected.” However, he seems unaware that mainstream evolutionary biology is also critical of such unsupported assertions. As an example, look at Gould and Eldredge’s classic essay, “The Spandrels of San Marcos.”

3) He cites a “Third Way” of understanding evolution that has been championed by Chicago professor James Shapiro. But Shapiro’s claims are anything but a challenge to mainstream evolutionary science.  The excerpt he quotes mentions mechanisms such as genome mergers and horizontal gene transfer as if “Darwinism” somehow ignored these processes.  In fact, as our understanding of molecular biology has grown it has provided strong support for the evolutionary process by discovering such things as transposable genetic elements, reverse transcription, RNA interference, and epigenetic modification of gene expression.  Far from being challenges to a “Darwinian” view of life, these new discoveries only expand our understanding of how evolution works by natural processes. When Dr. Shapiro asserts “small random mutations” cannot be “the main source of new and useful variations” he’s actually repeating something that has been clear ever since 1968 when Motoo Mimura proposed the neutral theory of evolution. It’s old news.

4) Cosgrove claims he read an article in the 1990s claiming that a professor in California was “forbidden from saying anything negative about Darwin.”  Really? I say negative things about Darwin in my own classes all the time, pointing out his lack of knowledge about genetics and biochemistry, and the fact that he did not appreciate the role that kin selection plays in the evolution of social behavior. No one has ever suggested I should tone down that criticism, and I suspect that no such professor was ever “forbidden” to say “anything negative” back in the 1990s either.

5) Cosgrove indicates that he was taken in by a New York City conference on ‘Intelligent Design,” and especially by the books of Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box and The Edge of Evolution). He claims that I have “belittled” and “distorted” Dr. Behe’s ideas. Here are the facts:

• I have never belittled Michael Behe, with whom I maintain very good personal relations. In fact, I have taken Dr. Behe seriously, and treated his ideas in the way any good scientist would hope and expect – by subjecting them to analysis and reasoned discussion. I have debated Dr. Behe, in print and in person, more than 10 times, which reflects the respect I have for him. In none of these debates was he able to point out a “distortion” of his ideas.

• Dr. Behe’s ideas were at the center of the landmark Kitzmiller v. Dover trial in 2005 on the issue of intelligent design. I testified at the start of that trial by first explaining the scientific evidence that supported evolution. Then I presented Dr. Behe’s ideas on “design” and then explained why those ideas were wrong. They were, as I explained, contradicted by scientific fact.  Dr. Behe followed my testimony two weeks later.  If I had distorted or mischaracterized his positions, he could easily have corrected me and destroyed my credibility. However, despite three days of testimony, he was able to do nothing of the sort. As the court’s final opinion pointed out, Dr. Behe’s claims for the “irreducible complexity” of biological systems were incorrect, and were directly contradicted by scientific fact.

• As an example, consider one of Behe’s central claims, namely, that the system of complex proteins that clot of the blood of vertebrates (like us) is irreducibly complex. He wrote specifically that each and every one of the blood clotting proteins had to be present for the system to work properly, and in the absence of any one of them, the system fails. We now know, as a result of whole genome sequencing, that many organisms do indeed lack several of these components, and yet have fully functional clotting systems. Furthermore, the detailed genetics of the system show, in great detail, how the clotting system evolved, something that Dr. Behe has always said would be impossible. For reference, I would recommend that Mr. Cosgrove read “The Evolution of Vertebrate Blood Clotting,” a 2013 book by Russell Doolittle, a scientific expert in the clotting system. Cosgrove regards such complex systems as the “Achilles Heel” of evolution.  As Doolittle’s research shows, such systems actually document the evolutionary process in exquisite detail.

• Finally, Cosgrove recommends Dr. Behe’s latest book, “The Edge of Evolution.” Far from ignoring Dr. Behe’s work, the scientific community reviewed that book in the world’s two leading scientific journals.  I reviewed it in the journal NATURE (June 28, 2007) and Sean B. Carroll reviewed it in the journal SCIENCE (June 8, 2007). Dr. Carroll and I pointed out the scientific errors and misconceptions in Behe’s arguments, which is why the book has won few converts to the intelligent design position.

6) It may surprise Mr. Cosgrove that I, too, am concerned with college students losing their faith. That is one of the principal reasons I have been so outspoken in support of the compatibility of evolutionary biology with religion, and with the Catholic view of science and faith in particular. To suggest that Catholicism is only valid if Darwinian evolution is wrong is a sure fire pathway to disbelief. Sadly, that is the one that Cosgrove seems to advocate.

J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
This will take awhile to answer since I will be traveling a fair amount in the next 6 weeks and it has been about 5 years since I last read into this. There is a lot of deception in Miller's answer. I will have to deal with that piecemeal over time. Why did you take down my other comment? The professor in question was Dean Kenyon. Here is a web article that discusses the situation. It was 22 years ago and I live in New York so I am not sure where I saw it. My guess is that it was a news magazine. http://www.discovery.org/a/2892 From this article
In 1992, San Francisco State University biology professor Dean Kenyon was ordered by the dean, Jim Kelley, to not "mention to students that there are important disputes among scientists about whether or not chemical evolution could have taken place…" This order came despite the fact that Kenyon had received his Ph.D. in biophysics from Stanford University and had co-authored the seminal theoretical work, Biochemical Predestination (1969). For many years, Kenyon had exposed his students to evidence both for and against Darwinian evolution. Yet he made the ultimate mistake in expressing his own view, that living systems display evidence of intelligent design. Kenyon was subsequently pulled from teaching introductory biology and was reassigned to labs.
I believe Kenyon is a Catholic. As far as Darwin and atheism, here is a web article about it: http://www.colsoncenter.org/the-center/columns/call-response/14641-perspectives-evolution-theistic-evolution-and-intelligent-design Here is another web article about Miller and Behe and their debate over certain aspects of design. http://www.discovery.org/a/14081 There are many more but I am going out the door now and won't be back till Sunday.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
In fact, as our understanding of molecular biology has grown it has provided strong support for the evolutionary process by discovering such things as transposable genetic elements, reverse transcription, RNA interference, and epigenetic modification of gene expression. Far from being challenges to a “Darwinian” view of life, these new discoveries only expand our understanding of how evolution works by natural processes.
I understand all of these. This is nothing new to me. As an example of some articles on this, I have read and understand this article by Jurgen Brosius. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1666/0094-8373%282005%29031%5B0001%3ADAEBAC%5D2.0.CO%3B2
Furthermore, the detailed genetics of the system show, in great detail, how the clotting system evolved, something that Dr. Behe has always said would be impossible. For reference, I would recommend that Mr. Cosgrove read “The Evolution of Vertebrate Blood Clotting,” a 2013 book by Russell Doolittle, a scientific expert in the clotting system. Cosgrove regards such complex systems as the “Achilles Heel” of evolution. As Doolittle’s research shows, such systems actually document the evolutionary process in exquisite detail.
I did not say this but I will read about Russell Doolittle's book since one of my comments refers to the discussion of the clotting system. I said
If you want to know what is the Achilles Heel for naturalistic evolution, it is the origin of proteins that work together to do something functional
The Brosius article I referred to above is about this problem. Both Behe and Doug Axe say it is essentially impossible to develop the ranges of functional proteins we see from naturalistic means.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
Here is another comment by Dr. Miller.
As an example, consider one of Behe’s central claims, namely, that the system of complex proteins that clot of the blood of vertebrates (like us) is irreducibly complex. He wrote specifically that each and every one of the blood clotting proteins had to be present for the system to work properly, and in the absence of any one of them, the system fails. We now know, as a result of whole genome sequencing, that many organisms do indeed lack several of these components, and yet have fully functional clotting systems. Furthermore, the detailed genetics of the system show, in great detail, how the clotting system evolved, something that Dr. Behe has always said would be impossible. For reference, I would recommend that Mr. Cosgrove read “The Evolution of Vertebrate Blood Clotting,” a 2013 book by Russell Doolittle, a scientific expert in the clotting system.
There has been a long series of exchanges between Dr. Miller and Dr. Behe on the clotting system. Dr. Behe has apparently responded to Dr. Miller several times on this and says that Dr. Miller's objections are not relevant. Here are two recent references on this topic about this discussion. Dr. Miller might want to comment on what Dr. Behe has said on this. The most recent was in a book, "Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe" that was published about 6 months ago. It includes a response to Dr. Doolittle. http://www.amazon.com/Science-Evidence-Design-Universe-Michael-ebook/dp/B00GB97QK6/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1401996870&sr=1-1 (I saw last night that this book was a compilation of presentations from 1999 even though it was just released by Amazon. It was sponsored by a Catholic organization in New York. I actually attended these presentations and first became aware of the Intelligent Design ideas.) Another web article that deals with the clotting system issue and the dispute between Dr. Miller and Dr. Behe is http://www.discovery.org/a/14081 This has been an area of contention between Dr. Miller and Dr Behe for years. These are publications in 2013 about this issue. I suggest interested readers get Dr. Miller's books and Dr. Behe's books to learn just what each is saying and if each is describing accurately what the other claims.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
Dr. Miller makes a lot of statements, many of which are not true. I will try to answer each as best I can. Here is Dr Miller's first statement from above:
Cosgrove asserts that “Darwinism” is the main reason that students enter as believers but leave Catholic Universities as atheists or agnostics. I’m unaware of any study demonstrating that, and none is cited in his comment. I would suggest that disillusionment with the institutional Church, especially in the handling of clerical sexual abuse of children, is at least as great a factor.
Dr. Miller is right that what I said was not based on a study. It is anecdotal and comes from reading the literature and history of people's reaction to Darwin's ideas, debates with those who espouse Darwin's ideas and a discussions with a couple of priests about the loss of faith in Catholics. The lost of faith is well documented and unless one wants to deny that I won't discuss it. The lost of faith is widespread amongst all youth, not just Catholics and has been going on for many years. It seemed to have started mainly in the 1970's but there appears to be evidence of it before then. So to describe the lack of faith today amongst Catholic students as the result of the abuse scandal is absurd. I pointed to the statements of well known atheists and that Darwinian thought is an essential of all these people. If they think it is a key point of their belief system why not suspect it is a significant reason for the lack of faith of young people today. We could get into book length discussions on this. It has been well documented that Darwin's ideas gained almost universal acceptance after the publication of the Origin of Species in the sense that the appearance of new species was due to naturalistic causes.. There was much debate about exactly how this happened but not that natural selection was false or that species didn't arise naturally. My guess is that nearly everyone reading this nods their head in agreement with this. For the history of the evolution debate till about 30 years ago, read Edward Larson's "Evolution, The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory" or get his course from the Teaching Company http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=174 The discussions with the two priests were based on their experiences with fallen away Catholics. They said there are hundreds of reasons but a central theme was a lack of belief in any real God and that the world was all there was. They both also said that a large number of those who loose their faith is due to specific issues they have with the Church and that there is nothing it offers that actually helps them. Did they specify Darwin's ideas. No, but they pointed to lack of mystery in life and there was no need for a God. I am sure the Jesuits here could add a thousand more reasons. I will go on to his last point since some of the others will take a lot of time.
It may surprise Mr. Cosgrove that I, too, am concerned with college students losing their faith. That is one of the principal reasons I have been so outspoken in support of the compatibility of evolutionary biology with religion, and with the Catholic view of science and faith in particular.
I never said or implied these things so it is interesting why Dr. Miller made this statement. I do say that affirming a process that has no basis in science is not helping the cause. And Darwinian ideas do not account for much in the evolution debate. We could get into the details as to why this is true but it would take a lot of space here. Let me just point out that I pointed to many respected scientists who hold the opinion that Darwinian ideas cannot explain anything of consequence in evolution. The link to the Third Way and their rationale is still above and was not taken down from the comments. Natural selection if it is to work has to have something to select. Basically non of the Darwinian processes as it is today in the form of the Neo Darwinian Synthesis or the Extended Synthesis (Examples in the Third Way) can account for the origin of the necessary new variation that Natural Selection needs for it to be meaningful. The process of variation, differential inheritance and survivability are well understood and not debated. What is debated is that the process of variation can provide anything relevant to select.
To suggest that Catholicism is only valid if Darwinian evolution is wrong is a sure fire pathway to disbelief. Sadly, that is the one that Cosgrove seems to advocate.
Again, an absurd statement. I never said this. I did say that I once thought Darwin's ideas explained evolution and as a Catholic I had no problem with this. What I did say is that I investigated the evolution question and over the course of several years came to a conclusion that Darwin's ideas cannot explain anything meaningful in evolution. If proof came up that I am wrong then I would gladly go back to accepting Darwin's ideas. Nor do I hold that Catholicism needs Darwin's ideas to be false to be valid. So I wonder just why such a comment was made.
Stanley Kopacz
3 years 4 months ago
For me, it is enough to believe that the universe is infused with the Spirit of God, and order and intelligibility follows from that reality. To me, Darwinian selection, if it is the comprehensive explanation for evolution, is an annealing process that explores possibilities in a solution space defined within this Presence, one possibility of which is reflexive consciousness. This is the most amazing outcome yet. I am amused by SciFi movies that posit X-men and tomorrow people. Having the ability to move things with your mind still wouldn't be as amazing as self-awareness. As for the evolution debate, I don't particularly like the idea of God as an engineer because its too anthropomorphic. To me, the cosmic story, evolution and all, seems great enough to be of God. As for intelligent design, there's always the intelligence of creatures choosing their mates, though humans seem to exhibit little intelligence in the process.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
Here is the comment that was deleted. Dr. Miller refers to several things in this comment so it should be part of this discussion.
Matt, I started following the evolution debate about 15 years ago. I read an article in one of the news magazines in the 1990's that some professor at one of the University of California schools was forbidden from saying anything negative about Darwin and had the option of only teaching Darwin's ideas or not teach the course. I was intrigued since I assumed for most of my life that Darwin's ideas were the basis for evolution. But I did not pay too much more attention to it. I have an undergraduate degree from a Jesuit university in math and physics and had some familiarity with biology. I had read some biology in the mid 90's because of my business (mainly about energy metabolism). My wife and I own a small business that distributes medical devices. I was curious about the censoring of the professor. Was there something wrong with Darwin's ideas. Then a few years later I saw an ad in the NY archdiocese newspaper about an intelligent design conference in New York City sponsored by a local Catholic organization. I went to it and was blown away by the presentations. It was all science. Absolutely no religion. I was hooked by the controversy. So I started to read and one of the first things I read was Michael Behe's book titled "Darwin's Black Box." I immediately saw the problem with Darwin's ideas. I then started to read books from both sides of the debate and bought a couple text books on biology to understand DNA and its role in the evolution debate. One of the things that I quickly learned is that the two sides did not debate in the same way. The Intelligent Design people would only provide scientific data and refer to biology and experiments while the Darwin side of the debate rarely used evidence that supported Darwin's ideas and would mainly use theological arguments as to why intelligent design was not right. They tried to belittle the ID people. One way they did this was to constantly refer to the ID people as creationist. I found that very strange. One of the people doing this belittling and distorting was Ken Miller. It took me a long time before it all coalesced in my thinking but I now can view the evolution debate from a framework worked out over a period of about 10 years. Darwin's ideas are mathematically, physically, chemically and biologically impossible. And Ken Miller knows it. This does not say that there might not be some other naturalistic explanation but it cannot be Darwin's ideas of mutation, recombination, differential reproduction and natural selection. And gradualism, an essential part of Darwin's thinking, is a non starter. Michael Behe is a excellent example of what I call a Catholic gentleman. He is always fair and to some extent this is one of his problems. He leans over backwards to accommodate his opponent in a debate. He is also is not a polished debater but his ideas are rock solid and backed up with evidence and reason. Miller is a polished debater and speaker but many of his ideas and criticisms of intelligent design are not logically sound. That is why I have no respect for Kenneth Miller. Many of the things you have excerpted and said by Miller, I agree with but that is far from what he has said in debates and testimony in the past. Miller defends Darwinian evolution. The link I provided to the Third Way indicates that a large group of people disagree with Darwinian processes as the source of anything major in biology. These people are not intelligent design advocates but believers in some form of naturalistic evolution. They however, recognize the deficiency of Darwinian processes. If any of them believe in design, they would not dare say it because they would be immediately ostracized from anything meaningful in their work. But none of the theories in the Third Way collection has any evidence supporting them either. Stephen Miller's book, Darwin's Doubt, reviews most of their theories. If you want to know what is the Achilles Heel for naturalistic evolution, it is the origin of proteins that work together to do something functional. It would take trillions x trillions of mutations just to get one new protein that is functional and to get a second that could work with it would take several orders of magnitude more than this. This essentially exhausts all the resources of the universe since the Big Bang just to get two proteins to work with each other let alone the thousands that are present in each cell. This is where the debate is, just how did all these proteins arise that work with each other. Darwinian processes could never begin to explain it and Kenneth Miller knows that. I recommend Michael Behe's second book, The Edge of Evolution, which discusses this issue.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
The true vow of a scientist is to practice honest and open empiricism in every aspect of his scientific work.
If you follow this then it will lead one to certain conclusions about what is true and not true in the evolution debate. Then one has to say that this may be what God wants. We cannot impose our own concept of the mind of God on what has to be true. This response is also a test to see if it will let me post. The system already has deleted several comments from this and other threads. I suspect it has something to do with the software that runs the site which I suspect is WordPress.
J Cosgrove
3 years 4 months ago
I was going to leave this topic go for the moment since it just seemed to be only me commenting on it. But there is something happening elsewhere on the internet on Catholics and evolution. This is in response to a publication from someone at Notre Dame. There is a thread on uncommon descent that was put up by a Catholic author there who has been commenting for several years on evolution and God and especially how it relates to Catholicism. The title of the thread is
"What kind of evolution does the Pope believe in?"
Here is the link: http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/what-kind-of-evolution-does-the-pope-believe-in/ A large part of the discussion revolves around how do Darwin's ideas fit with Catholicism. That is an issue that has permeated this OP. Probably the most insightful commenter is someone named Timaeus who is a classical scholar and comments frequently on the philosophical implications of evolution and intelligent design. He isn't a Catholic but seems to know more about Catholic theological thinking than anyone and is well read on Augustine and Aquinas and other Catholic scholars. Those who are interested in this topic might well read what is being debated. The real issue - For those wanting to know why Darwin's ideas are an issue, I have found that few who defend Darwin's ideas understand just what is being debated. First of all Darwin knew nothing about biology let alone anything about modern genomes and genetics. His ideas were based on observations of the world mainly through his voyage on the Beagle which took about nearly 5 years to complete. (His ideas have been modernized based on known science today but his basic framework is still accepted and used to justify naturalistic evolution.) Darwin observed an amazing array of species on this journey which circumnavigated the world. Some were completely original with little similarity to others and most were variations of others but very distinct variations. He then proposed that change took place gradually and naturally and the process that did this was something he called natural selection. His book was extremely well written but in reality there was a very subtle bait and switch that went on in the book which still is present today in the evolution debate.
First, Darwin argued that massive changes were easily accomplished to species through selective breeding.
He mainly used pigeons but for us today, dogs are probably the best examples. A Chihuahua and a Great Dane are both dogs descended from a common ancestor not too long ago. This was done through selective breeding. Obvious and easy to understand. The implication was that if humans could do this in a couple hundred years just imagine what could be done by nature in millions of years. Everyone will nod in agreement. Obvious and easy to understand. Just one caveat, no breeder ever produced a non dog through this process but none ever tried very hard.
The two other main pillars of Darwin's argument is what is called homologies and geographic variation .
Homologies - All the species seemed to be built alike. The closer in time to the present, the more similar the similarities are to present species. As one gets farther back in time the similarities get less and less. No new wildly different species arose in recent geological time. This is just what one would expect from a naturalistic process creating new species very slowly over time. Geographic variation - As one moves along geographically from a current point the species vary but only a little. As one goes farther away the differences become much greater with some areas having very unique species. Just what one would expect with the slow migration of sub-populations of species over a long time period to a geographically remote place. The argument was first, why would a creator do this? Have similar species gradually drifting apart over time and second, why would a creator make a new species on an island not too far away. That added to the seemingly endless plasticity of species as evidenced by selective breeding won the day and with about 20 years of Darwin's first edition, most of the intellectual world agreed with Darwin that evolution was a fact. The argument seemed to be won except that Darwin had no naturalistic mechanism to explain how these changes could happen. However, over the next 100 years science came to the rescue with the discovery of genes and mutations and DNA and a mechanism was found.
Or was it?
New species can be formed by slight adjustments to the genome of a current one and that is not in dispute. The part of the genome that makes a difference is those genes that can be encoded into proteins. Proteins can be modified by slight changes in the genome to the genes that encode for the proteins. But here is the problem that no one who espouses Darwinian evolution can solve. How are new unique proteins created? Especially ones that can work with each other. Similar species mostly have similar genes but as the species get wildly different from each other, some of the proteins get very unique and different from other species. (This is a very technical area and is hard to describe for those not familiar with modern biology.) I have said below that the Achilles Heel of naturalistic evolution is the origin of new proteins or actually the origin of the regions in the genome that code for these proteins. No one has an answer and many have pointed to well established research that says it is mathematically impossible. It is this that those who propose Darwinian evolution as the way new species arose will not discuss. They have no answer. This is a very short discussion of this problem but it is at the heart of the debate. Essentially the Darwinist do not have a mechanism for species change that does anything but make trivial changes to a genome. In other words hard science points out that their explanations cannot work and are in reality not science. They are philosophical and based on rhetoric, not science and certainly not on something called natural selection. Is it just the Intelligent Design proponents or the Young Earth Creationists who make these claims. No as pointed to below, the Third Way also recognizes the problem and these are respected members of the science community. So the Church should steer clear of endorsing any mechanism for evolution because current science says there is no known way it could happen. The future may bring something new but no one has a clue as of today.

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