Ken Miller: A Textbook Biologist at the Dover Trial

Fifteen years ago in the Dover Trial, one of the star witnesses was Kenneth Miller, a textbook biologist. Turns out that Miller does not like that title at all. He is a research scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island. One of his students graduated and became a scientist too, but then pressured and cajoled Miller into writing a textbook in biology. He never expected to be writing a textbook.

This textbook also landed him on the Witness stand in the Dover Trial. It was Ken Miller’s textbook that was being challenged by the school board there. This is not at all what he expected. His interview with Nathan Lents and I was entertaining. Come listen in on his experience at the Trial. This biologist has many stories to tell.


Great job @nlents. That was a lively conversation!

I had fun analyzing this conversation.

Loved the conversation about how science textbooks have changed. I thought science was memorization. That’s why I didn’t enjoy learning it, and why I only took the minimum.

@NLENTS mentioned one piece of evidence can be really persuasive. That makes me happy. Let me go find you some :slight_smile:

Kenneth Miller said “If we did not have evidence of a single fossil, the genetic and molecular evidence [for evolution] would be overwhelming.” Great! Now prove that we weren’t front-loaded with design and weren’t not devolving slowly. You should be able to take Genetic Entropy apart and smash it.

Kenneth Miller mentions creationists aren’t interested in coprolites.

Maybe he should define which particular organism shouldn’t be there, so we can go find that for him and then he will have to concede :slight_smile:

In Kenneth Miller’s mousetrap explanation, he said that the “subset of the parts is functional” - Great, that’s devolution too! Thanks for proving the point.

@swamidass you asked Kenneth Miller about exaptation. He answered based on phenotype and nothing else. Check back on the conversation with Behe. At 50:42, Behe is specifically referring to molecular machines and talking about things at the genetic level. Hence why I said this.

I could listen to Ken Miller for hours. I suspect he’s an excellent teacher. Always engaging and enthusiastic.


Both I and @Rumraket pushed back on that one :slight_smile: .


I missed you saying it because I was taking notes, but saw his comment. :slight_smile: I think I’m making him nervous…

Easy enough. The fit of the genetic data to a nested hierarchy shows that species are related by common descent. Separate creation, whether perfect or otherwise, would not be expected to show that pattern. So much for genetic entropy.

Not clear what you’re trying to do here.


Ken Miller’s great. His work in Kitzmiller was important to the outcome and laid the groundwork for the judge being able to really understand what was wrong with Behe’s views. He put himself on the line to prevent our children being force-fed other people’s religious views, and that makes him a hero not only in scientific terms but as a defender of the US constitution.


Oh John, you’re not even trying. That’s not a refutation. :joy: We’ll have to wait until I finish the book.

What has evolved after dinosaurs that should not be in their poop? Kenneth Miller was saying that is a simple way to refute evolutionary origins permanently and concretely.

One of the articles argues that rice should not be in their poop. Maybe you or Kenneth Miller can provide me with a clear evolutionary tree of all organisms that is dated, so when the discovery of dinosaur coprolites is made that have that thing that evolved after the dinosaurs, then all the scientists will immediately concede the YEC is indeed true and not change their tree instead :slight_smile:

Yes that’s a bit overselling it I think. Clearly creationists are very self-interested.

Disregarding your inappropriate use of the term “prove” in a scientific discussion, that has already been done. That hypothesis does not fit the data from comparative genetics at all, hence cannot be rationally maintained.

Has already been done on this very forum, at length, multiple times.

I’ve tried to argue it with you directly, but you ran away from the discussion.

I invite you to go and find spiders, wasps, kangaroos, and crocodiles, in the Cryogenian. Take as much time as you need.

You seem confused about what Behe’s argument was, and what Miller’s response showed.

The concept of irreducible complexity was initially invoked by Behe to argue that it would be impossible for some complex structure to evolve if reduced versions of the structure didn’t have any function. But given that reduced versions of the structure do have function, this shows there really is a pathway through which the structure can evolve and remain functional throughout.

Obviously the fact that some structure can function in different ways even though parts of it are missing doesn’t show it’s “devolving”.


It is always at this point in the discussion that it seems disappointing that a Neanderthal Wabbit or a Sabre-Toothed Wabbit will not do. Alas – not old enough, but certainly well documented.


You haven’t read it; neither has @NLENTS or @swamidass I bet. So I’d like to finish the book and have a heads up on how evolution actually works before I argue with you. Lol. If that’s possible since you have degrees in biology and whatever I took 20 years ago is outdated.


I haven’t read his books. I’m thinking then I don’t agree with his argument perhaps. Maybe this is different than what I understand Sanford to be arguing: that the reduced versions of the structure do have function, because that’s what we are now!! We’ve evolved to the reduced versions.

This is how Sanford defines it. So it could.

But that book won’t tell you that. It will tell you how Sanford thinks it does, and I’ve been trying to get you to see how it’s wrong. But you’ve run away twice from such discussions. So how long do we have to wait for you to read his book before we can take a look at that curve I asked you to, or for you to find where Sanford quantitatively defines information in a way where it can be measured?

How is directly giving you answers to your question a strawman? You asked for fossils and where to look for them, I directly answered that.

Yeah I’m sorry but you seem really confused about these ideas. Behe has argued multiple different things as supposed challenges to evolution. These different things can’t be interchanged. The irreducible complexity argument is not equivalent to the “devolution” argument he’s been making, nor to Sanford’s Genetic Entropy.

Sanford’s Genetic Entropy idea is superficially similar to Behe’s devolution idea (there are important differences, for example that Behe does not argue anywhere that beneficial mutations are particularly rare, nor that deleterious mutations are overwhelmingly “invisibly” deleterious), but neither of these are directly related to Irreducible complexity(nor to the mousetrap analogy).

Once again I must point out that you seem very confused. No, Sanford does not “define” anywhere that a structure is devolving just because individual parts of it can have functions. You seem unable to even keep track of what is being argued.

I get that sense that you’ve decided to just defend any and all anti-evolution ideas you can find by whatever assertion you can think of in the spur of the moment, regardless of whether it makes logical sense or is even related to what is being discussed.


It seems Miller unaware of this engagement with fossilized feces. That seems to be the only solid point I observe…

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Why not? Would you agree that evidence of common descent of humans and chimps is evidence against GE, and that evidence of common descent of humans and all other primates is even stronger evidence against it? May I suggest that you may not understand what is and is not a refutation, and that this has nothing to do with finishing the book?

Ah. Do you know of anything? I don’t. So you are absolutely sure that this will happen some day? Thus you have your conclusion in advance of your evidence. That’s not a good way to work.

Anyway, why should coprolites be the major source of this “proof”? Shouldn’t the fossil record be chock full of Cambrian rabbits and such?

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Because Miller pointed this as a fruitful area to test YEC, that’s why it came up. But I don’t agree with that line of reasoning, and disputed it in the interview.

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That article on dinosaurs and rice is interesting.

But the discovery of silica structures characteristic of grass in fossilized dinosaur droppings show that they did. Caroline Strömberg, a palaeobotanist at the Swedish Museum of Natural History, Stockholm, and her colleagues based in India found signs of a variety of grass species in the dung, they report in the journal Science1.

The team collected 65-million-year-old droppings from the volcanic Deccan Traps of central India in order to study the diet of titanosaurs, the group of super-size dinosaurs that includes Diplodocus.

They then ground up the pieces of fossilized dung, known as coprolites, and looked for phytoliths, microscopic pieces of silica from plant cells. They expected to find evidence of well-known Late Cretaceous vegetation such as conifers and cycads. But they also came across some phytoliths that could only have come from grass.

Microscopic pieces of silica in fossilised dinosaur droppings show that they ate grass.

@art, what are phytoliths, and why do plants make them?

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Yes, I see that.

Yep, got that too

Yes, I realize this too.

No, I can already see that Behe’s argument is self-defeating. Oops. Biologists arent dumb.

Though he still may understand evolutionary theory a little better than they do.

Back to that phytolith point, by the way: the ICR writer seems to be badly confused about timing.

But if flowering plants like rice did not evolve until millions of years after dinosaurs lived—as evolution maintains—how could dinosaurs have eaten them?

In fact, of course, angiosperms evolved BEFORE the extinction of the dinosaurs, and this isn’t exactly a deep secret. Since the Stromberg paper involves coprolites from the late Cretaceous, that’s not a problem. Show me a grass-eating Pikaia, or even a grass-eating Lystrosaurus, and I’ll be more surprised.

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