DI's Brian Miller thinks people just don't understand ID

Brian Miller of the Discovery Institute has posted a series of articles on “Evolution News” attempting to correct what he thinks are misconceptions critics have regarding some common ID Creationist claims. But could it be that the critics are not the ones misunderstanding things?

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I think it’s really interesting that @bjmiller doesn’t reference my calculation on the FI of cancer. I wonder if that means he agrees that my work did not misapply information theory.


It’s one of the most common ID-Creationist excuses. If you don’t agree with IDC that means you must not understand it. :roll_eyes: It’s a one-size-fits-all excuse for dodging criticisms and never producing any positive evidence for your own position.

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I think it’s really interesting that @bjmiller, writing about protein rarity, picks out some numbers about relative fitness from a 2006 paper from Dan Tawfik’s lab but doesn’t reference a 1996 paper in PNAS (linked below) that showed that complete replacement of the hydrophobic core of a ribonuclease (barnase) can spare function of the enzyme, in vivo. About a quarter of these mutants, in which 13 amino acids are literally scrambled randomly, have function. The authors of that study wrote this in their abstract:

These results imply that hydrophobicity is nearly a sufficient criterion for the construction of a functional core and, in conjunction with previous studies, that refinement of a crudely functional core entails more stringent sequence constraints than does the initial attainment of crude core function. Since attainment of crude function is the critical initial step in evolutionary innovation, the relatively scant requirements contributed by the hydrophobic core would greatly reduce the initial hurdle on the evolutionary pathway to novel enzymes. Similarly, experimental development of novel functional proteins might be simplified by limiting core design to mere specification of hydrophobicity and using iterative mutation-selection to optimize core structure.

Barnase is a small protein, 110 amino acids. The scientists randomized more than 10% of the amino acids in the protein, and about a quarter of those variants were functional. You don’t have to be a biochemist to realize that the results mean that there are a huge number of functional variants of barnase in the protein universe.

I think the DI author may be confused by the difference between relative fitness and function. He writes that the protein in the 2006 study was “disabled” by having 10% of its amino acids altered. That’s wrong.

Edited to add: the DI author is discussing two different papers on relative fitness and protein variation; the 2006 paper and a more recent paper (2018). Both are about fitness and not about whether variants have function.


If I.D.'s critics spent a little more time explaining the impossible epistemology of proving divine design, things would become increasingly clear.

From Limits of Evolutionary Processes, emphasis mine…

" the evolution of many novel complex traits, such as echo location in whales, requires the modification or creation of numerous proteins, physical structures, and neural connections. Such a feat is only possible through intelligent design."

OK then, it should be an easy task for Miller, utilizing the analytical tools developed just for such a purpose, to distinguish which exact whale features are due to modification, and which were created.


Was there a reason you didn’t mention the name of the lead author on that paper? Did you just not want to rub the creationsts’s noses in it? :slight_smile:

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And in the third article we hear that

Facepalm time! The application of the NFLT to evolution was thoroughly debunked by at least 6 different people starting soon after Dembski’s book appeared. Someone needs to inform Miller. An explanation of the debunking with citation of those arguments will be found in an article by me in 2007.


Miller says in the first article that

So I guess the process of natural selection is not possible. And weeds don’t grow. But notice the vague word “appreciably”.

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I see that @bjmiller has still not acknowledged his misrepresentation of Dan Tawfik’s paper:

Despite having it copy-pasted to him twice on this website.


I don’t think nose-rubbing should be a goal or habit on PS. The findings would be relevant (if unsurprising, at least today) no matter who did the experiments. If there’s another point to citing the paper here, in response to a DI piece, it’s not to taunt anyone. It’s this: to point out that the patterns of citation and consideration of the scientific literature are so consistently bad in DI writings that they even involve ignoring their own colleagues’ work.

Scientifically, the biggest error (among a few) in the piece about “protein rarity” is to cite work on organism fitness as “confirmation” of work on protein function. The HisA paper that Miller cites explores this relationship explicitly and at length. Equating one with the other is a mistake that no one with even moderate expertise would make.

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I entirely agree.

We expect professionalism here.

It observers of this thread, I’m sorry for the places were my expectations are not met.

Part of what is going on with this, at least at times, is that contradictory claims are often being made. I don’t see them working to build a cohesive whole,

This contrasts with, for example, Reasons to Believe and Reasonable Faith.


No, that doesn’t seem to be a goal. On the subject of protein evolution and the protein universe, there is IMO huge room for deep discussion of design and ideas about how the protein universe gets explored. This just doesn’t seem to be of interest to the writers at the DI, but maybe this is explained by the basic nature of their errors, which suggest a lack of understanding of the topics they write about.


My comment about nose-rubbing was in jest, and of course given the delays in comments being posted here you likely did not see that I had added a smiley to the end of my comment before you wrote your response.

In any event, I do not think it is nose-rubbing to emphasize that last point: Overlooking that paper can hardly be considered an honest oversight, especially by Axe.


On this, I have been consulting Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt, and I am having a hard time finding anything applicable. When people do nothing but lie, and everything they say is intended to advance a theocratic agenda, destroy your children’s science education, and enslave you and all your fellow citizens to the darkest and most vicious forms of their crude religious faith, and you’re having them over for dinner, should it be bone china or just the regular dinnerware?


I think this is much ado about very little. EN has been recycling old posts and videos for awhile now, and Miller’s latest series is along this line. Maybe they are overwhelmed by the upcoming ID seminar. In any case, Miller’s ideas have been thoroughly debunked and there is nothing new in this series that addresses any of the many flaws in Miller’s essays.


That there is nothing new is the most remarkable thing about the series. @bjmiller has ignored many of the responses made to the ID claims, some of which have been summarized here. Quite odd.

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