Ken Miller: A Textbook Biologist at the Dover Trial

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.


I know Caroline Stromberg! She’s at the University of Washington here in Seattle now. She was showing me a phytolith under a microscope at the Burke Museum during a recent (pre-COVID) members’ open house night, in fact.

I had a lovely evening out at a pub with her, her husband (Greg Wilson), the paleontologist Christine Janis (who used to be at Brown alongside Ken Miller but now is a professor emeritus), and a bunch of paleo grad students once. Christine and I were regaling them with tales of creationist nonsense. I recall telling Caroline about the thesis of Douglas Axe’s book – that it’s intuitively obvious that living things are designed, and that we should trust our intuition on this – and she simply said that she had no such intuition. Can’t say I have that intuition, either.


Valerie giveth, and Valerie taketh away.


You probably thought the grit in your salad came from unwashed lettuce :grinning:. I don’t know why plants do most of the things they do. But phytoliths are yet another example of how fascinating are the goings on underground.

actually its not realy true. you need to involve intelligence to make subset of mouse trap functional.

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Yes it’s really true. Whether or not a subset of mousetrap parts can have a function is a different question from how the parts got there. The original mouse trap is NOT irreducibly complex because its parts can be used for other different functions.

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It’s only a Google away, but here’s the link if anyone wants to check out the Ken Miller/Henry Morris debate mentioned around 15 minutes in. The Miller/Morris Debate (1981) | National Center for Science Education Audio and transcript available.


Yes, but he’s saying the mousetrap didn’t move its parts on its own. Someone intelligent has to do that.

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No one said a mousetrap had to move its parts on its own. That’s not germane to the topic. Do you understand a mousetrap is NOT irreducibly complex since parts can be removed and the remainder still retain a different function?


Yes, clearly Behe brought up the mousetrap example to explain the principle of irreducibly complexity through a complex arrangement of multiple parts, not to argue that Mousetrap parts had to be moved around by hand. The components of organisms don’t move around by hand, they self-assemble under genetic control.

In the words of Larry the Cable Guy, “I don’t care who you are. That’s funny.”

(For years I’ve described myself as an “ol’ fossil”. @rumraket, you’ve challenged me to be more specific in the future.)

I smiled on that one as well.

You folks are on a roll today. We should book you for the next HBO Pay-Per-View Peaceful Science Comedy Special.

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“It’s only a Google away, but here’s the link if anyone wants to check out the Ken Miller/Henry Morris debate mentioned around 15 minutes in. The Miller/Morris Debate (1981) | National Center for Science Education Audio and transcript available.”

Just listened to the whole thing, and this is about the most masterful oral takedown of YEC and Flood Geology I’ve ever heard. “God hath delivered him into my hands…” Bravo, Mr. Miller. :slight_smile:


They are definitely both masterful speakers. It is fascinating in its cultural context.

I listened to the first two hours and I was wondering how much of the science was outdated on both sides. Miller’s presentation of origin of life seems like it would be completely wrong by today’s standards and from what I heard it seems OoL has gone backwards so I wondered if today proved his 1980s self wrong on evolution. :sweat_smile: I’d be curious how much has changed if anyone wants to listen to the second section. The framework Morris gave on the first section seems exactly where we were at today. If anything I thought only genetics has changed - 40 years ago that looked so different - and I think creationists have adopted more evolutionary ideas. I plan on listening to the rest tonight.

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I already explained I see that argument as self-defeating, if he uses the word “devolution.” Then how could we as humans still be functional? So yes, I do understand.

I’m obviously no expert, but I had the same thought on some of the origin of life material Miller was presenting. I’d guess a lot of that is outdated, and he may have been overstating some of it a tad even for the time. And yes, both of them are great speakers and debaters! I hadn’t heard Henry Morris speak before and as soon as he started his presentation his popularity suddenly made a lot of sense. Likable dude.

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Yes - I finished it. It was so good! I really wish we had a tape of Wilberforce and Huxley to compare. That would be awesome! I had really little to no knowledge of creationist science before this year, so it was definitely obvious why Morris was so popular once I heard him speaking and why he started a movement.

The discussion of entropy was fascinating. I haven’t heard that in any of the debates I’ve listened to recently. Plus, in evolution and creation the debate is now about genetics and nested hierarchies and such. The references to transitional forms is sort of on the back-burner, and only used as it related to nested hierarchies that I’ve seen.

Miller obviously took a lot of time to study Morris’ position and it showed. He was punchy.

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The blog post for this podcast is now up.

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On the topic of creationists and coprolites: