Miller Cross Examined

This morning, the defendants’ counsel, Thomas More Law Center’s Robert Muise, completed their cross examination of biology professor Kenneth Miller. Miller was questioned about his knowledge of several well known scientists, including Francis Crick (of double helix fame), evolutionary scientist Stephen Jay Gould and paleontologist George Gaylord Simpson, “one of the founders of the ‘modern synthesis’ of evolution.”

Miller established his extensive knowledge of said scientists – Gould was a personal friend. Miller was aware that Crick was a Nobel Laurate. – and their theories. The questioning, then, jumped to a discussion on NASA and its search for extra terrestrial life life, as well as questions about whether Miller felt Crick’s theory contained supernatural undercurrents. Muise appeared to be implying that other credible scientists have made statements that could be interpretted as having some elements tied to the supernatural.

When questioned about this in the plaintiff’s redirect, Miller stated “just because scientists say something doesn’t make it scientific.”

Submitted by Jamie Mullen, legal assistant, ACLU of PA

20 thoughts on “Miller Cross Examined

  1. “just because scientists say something doesn’t make it scientific.”

    Right and just because scientists say something is fact doesn’t mean it is so. Evolution is a theory with just as much merit as intelligent design. Had Judge Jones allowed FTE to get involved they could have brought more supporting evidence to that but alas he did not so it looks like the whacked out left will win again. Congrats!

  2. EM: What’s “FTE” and what order of Judge Jones are you referring to? The defense side of the case (against the ACLU) is extremely well represented at this trial (as are the plaintiffs, thankfully). If the parents and teachers who brought this suit win the case (who are neither “leftist” nor “whacked out,” but you’re welcome to your opinion of them, however ill-informed it may be), it will not be because evidence was kept out. It will be because Judge Jones, a conservative appointee of the current President, is persuaded by evidence and argument that the school board has attempted to do something here that our Constitution prohibits — to establish religion in the public schools, under the deliberately deceptive label of “scientific controversy”

  3. Tell me where in the First Amendment it says freedom “from” religion? The First Amendment specifically provides freedom “of” religion , but that is, truthfully, moot in this issue because the assumption that “intelligent design” is based on religious principles is absurd. In this case specifically, Dover simply defines what intelligent design is and refers them to another textbook for further info should they desire to learn. What about “academic freedom?” Oh that’s right…that doesn’t apply when its not working in your favor. I never said the parents were whacked out. I made a generalized statement about the leftist movement. FTE (Foundation for Thoughts and Ethics) attempted to be co-defendants with Dover on the case but Judge Jones would not allow it due to poor timing on their part. FTE was the group behind the referenced textbook in the case, Of Pandas and People. They and their attorneys could provide invaluable insight into intelligent design. Granted, Judge Jones was appointed by Bush and he has more of a conservative approach. I don’t think that the decision in this case will demonstrate any kind of “judicial activism,” but essentially Dover is left to defend itself against attorneys with invaluable resources at their finger tips thanks to the American taxpayer. Your ACLU knows how to strategize in the legal system.

  4. everyman, I don’t think anyone has an issue with academic freedom and creationism being taught in schools, provided that it is taught as theology or religious education and not as science which, as the evidence seems to indicate, it is clearly not.

  5. The test the court must apply is called the Lemon test. That test says that a government sponsored message, like the one ordered by the school board, violates the establishment clause when:
    1. The government’s action must have a legitimate secular purpose;
    2. The government’s action must not have the primary effect of either advancing or inhibiting religion; and
    3. The government’s action must not result in an “excessive entanglement” of the government and religion.

    The Dover board clearly had a religious purpose in mind. By June 2004, Bill Buckingham, the board’s curriculum-committee chairperson,
    was publicly criticizing the textbook that the science teachers had selected — Miller
    and Levine’s Biology59 — attacking it at public board meetings as being “laced with
    Darwinism.” If students were taught only evolution, Buckingham warned, they
    would be “brainwash[ed]” into thinking that it was a fact rather than a theory.
    Responding to the public’s concern that it might not be proper to favor Christianity over other religions, he declared that “[t]his country wasn’t founded on Muslim beliefs
    or evolution” but instead “was founded on Christianity, and our students should be
    taught as such.” Thus, Buckingham announced that the curriculum committee would
    look for a textbook presenting creationism as well as evolution.

    Buckingham beseeched others on the board to support his position by stating: “‘Two thousand
    years ago, someone died on a cross. Can’t someone take a stand for him?’”

    The board’s intent is clearly to advance a particular relgious point of view — to establish religious teaching. That violates the very principles this country was founded on.

  6. Everyman:
    the assumption that “intelligent design” is based on religious principles is absurd. In this case specifically, Dover simply defines what intelligent design is and refers them to another textbook for further info should they desire to learn.
    You mean the textbook that used to be a “creationist” textbook, but via the miracle of global find and replace, is now an “intelligent design” textbook?
    Sorry, but the establishment clause is the matter at hand. As you point out, freedom “of” religion is at issue. The constitution says that an essential component of that freedom is a prohibition on governmental agencies favoring one religion, like Biblical Literalism, over any other.
    Since the terms “ID” and “Creationism” are synonomous, according to the editors who pulled the find and replace stunt, I fail to see how academic freedom has anything to do with the case.

  7. Right and just because scientists say something is fact doesn’t mean it is so. Evolution is a theory

    and a fact, which is something you would know if you took even 10 minutes to research what science actually says about evolution. Try this helpful step-by-step process in the future:

    1) Learn about science.

    2) Argue with scientists about science.

    with just as much merit as intelligent design.

    I’m having a really hard time finding any of the major ID advocates saying that Intelligent Design is a scientific theory (please show me otherwise). Conjecture, maybe. Possibly even a hypothesis (I’m being very kind, here). But it is not a theory. So it is not on the same level as evolution.

    In this case specifically, Dover simply defines what intelligent design is and refers them to another textbook for further info should they desire to learn.

    No, they don’t “simply” do anything of the sort. They present a grossly inaccurate and biased preamble which attempts to “poison the well”. They make strange comments about evolution being a theory, and a theory being constantly tested, and evolution theory is not fact, the assumption being that that somehow makes it less correct. If you read the preamble carefully (I’ll leave it up to you to find the wording; it is freely available and will help you with your researching skills), you’ll notice that they single out evolution specifically. They don’t say “all theories are not facts” and “all theories are constantly being tested”. And that’s only the beginning of what is wrong with the preamble, which any critical reading of it would reveal.

  8. I won’t deny that there are many similarities between ID and Creationism but the difference is that ID doesn’t specify who the creator was, simply that our world was created by an intelligent force. Nor does it promote any religion, whereas obviously Creationism does. I know of the establishment clause and, in my opinion, it is based on a misinterpretation of the First Amendment but my opinion doesn’t matter. The law is what matters. In this particular case, based on what I’ve seen and read, the Dover School District is not violating the establisment clause. They are simply offering a different viewpoint which encourages critical thinking. That would be “academic freedom.” The problem is that the left seeks to weigh this issue down with “creationism” which ID is most certainly not. Nor does the Dover School District endorse it as the “end-all-be-all” when it comes to explaining how our world was created and developed. It is simply an alternate viewpoint. Denying that means denying students a viewpoint which might change the way they think. We send our children to school to educate them not to make them products of a “think tank.” Now, were they attempting to pass off ID as fact, I think there would be more of a legitimate argument in this case against its instruction. The fact is, they are not. They are merely presenting the viewpoint and giving the student the option to make his/her own decision.

  9. RE: Everyman’s posts:

    “Dover is left to defend itself”, because the Dover School Board has people on it who violated the US Constitution in order advance a non-scientific, religious agenda. Frankly, if I was a taxpayer in Dover, I’d be irritated that my kids were being taught a religious/philosophical agenda in a science class, but I’d be REALLY pissed off that I was stuck paying the bill for defending this case.

    And, yes, it’s not “freedom from religion”, but “freedom of religion”, which is the fundamental principle being defended here. The “intelligent design” theory is so shaky, so non-scientific, and so CLEARLY an attempt to advance a very narrow religious perspective. There are very few Christians who subscribe to the creationist agenda — most don’t have an issue with allowing scientific knowledge to inform their faith, and certainly reject the absurd, extremist, dogmatic Genesis 1 & 2 “literalism” on which a fundamentalist minority in the Christian world has staked their claim — yet their children are being taught it in the public school as “science”, which certainly infringes on their religious freedom especially when their tax dollars are paying for it. Even Rick Santorum doesn’t think it should be taught in a science class.

    As I stated in a previous post, the issue here is that this is being taught as science. I, personally, think it would be a great idea to have a class (NOT a science class) where high school students learn about the major religions of the world — where they are similar, where they differ, hearing directly from guest speakers, NOT proselytizing, but explaining their religion’s beliefs and understanding of the world and how we got here — as well the worldview(s) of those who opt for agnoticism or atheism. But to pick out one group’s religious beliefs (and let’s be honest here — this is clearly and singularly a fundamentalist “christian” agenda), and present it as science in a public school is a violation of freedom of religion (not “freedom from religion.”)

    And it does not engender a lot of confidence in the auspiciously (suspiciously) named Foundation for Thoughts and Ethics if they couldn’t even get their %*@~ together enough to submit their request to be co-defendents on time. Oh, but I guess that the “whacked out leftist movement” is to blame for FTE’s inability to find its own gluteous maximus muscles with both hands. No, wait, I know whose fault that is — BILL CLINTON! That’s always a good fall back for the whacked out anti-science far-right.

    Regarding your other comment about “the whacked out left will win again” — oh, yeah — the left has really been winning a lot lately. Gimme a break. The supposed party of “conservative government” has steered this country farther and farther to the left, especially over the past 4 years. Are we better off with the current GOP “administration”? Are we more united or divided as a nation after 4 & 1/2 years with the babbling stooge and his incompetent but malicious cronies in charge? Anybody want to suggest that we’re safer from terrorist attack with the far right in charge (anybody ever wonder whatever happened to the Bin Ladin guy — ya never hear his name much anymore)? What? No one? That’s right! It was the far right “leadership” of this country that allowed the horrific attack of Sept 11 (and then quickly whipped out their “wet dream” list of curtailments of Constitutional rights, as though they’d just been WAITING for a moment when the nation would be scared enough to sign off for their “give-up-your-rights-for-security” devil’s pact (oh, yeah, we’re REAL secure right now). You people on the whacked out right have a far right government in place — White House, Senate, House, Supreme Court, Federal Courts, and a lot of state governments. The left NEVER wins on anything, and you have no one to blame but yourselves and the krypto-fascist leaders you’ve put in control of this country. Oh, no, wait — I forgot — it’s BILL CLINTON’S fault! (A guy who was anything but “left.”)

    It’s a truly sad commentary on how far to the right this nation has gone when an organization solely committed to defending the Bill of Rights and the Constitution is viewed as “radical” or, in the words of far-right demagogue Bill O’Reilly, “anti-American”. The ACLU has defended people on all sides of the political spectrum when those sacred Contitutionally-guaranteed rights are violated by elected officials from both major parties. Why is defending the Bill of Rights so unpopular in our far-right-controlled nation? And, better yet, why do right-wingers hate America and our Constitution so much?

    And, “Everyman”, you’ve chosen your name poorly — you don’t reflect me, and you certainly don’t typify most of the people I know. I and the people I know value this nation’s Constitution, this nation’s freedoms, and expect that our society and our government will always strive to meet the high ideals of democracy and personal freedom. If that makes us “whacked out leftists”, what does that say about the Right?

    – Scott M. Haun

  10. But why do they want to provide a viewpoint that is widely rejected as scientifically vacuous? There is a fine line between academic freedom and academic responsibility. It would be offensive to force teachers to recite a preamble before all classes about World War II saying that some people believe the Holocaust never happened, or before any class about space exploration saying that some people believe the moon landing was faked.

    So where do you stop? What idea is too outrageous for us to not present to children as an alternative? I suggest that maybe, just maybe, we should accept the expert consensus in any area of knowledge. Historians overwhelmingly concur that the Holocaust did in fact happen, and that we did in fact land on the moon. Similarly, scientist overwhelmingly concur that the theory of evolution is the only workable theory of the origin of the diversity of life.

    Scientists are an open bunch, though. They are more than willing to have anyone prove them wrong. That is what science is all about. If ID advocates can actually put together a workable theory, with legitimate experiments and peer reviewed papers that stand the test of scrutiny and time, maybe they will slowly gain acceptance in the scientific community (if, of course, their “theory” actually holds water). And then, maybe, one can legitimately claim that ID should be presented as an alternative.

    But until then, students should be shielded from ID as they are from all the other crank pseudo sciences. It says something about the ID movement, however, that they wish to circumvent the entire scientific process and cram ID into schools before it gains scientific credibility. (Note: the Discovery Institute has come out and said as much: ID is too young to be presented to schools just yet. That is why they have ducked out of this whole Dover debacle.)

  11. Aaack. What nonsense, EM. The study of science is not the study of differing viewpoints, unless they are scientific. You can’t just say that because my religious viewpoint differs from yours, my science is different than yours. If that’s the case, lets all study the great Spaghetti Monster viewpoint on how life evolved.

    I get tired of hearing religious people complaining that because they can’t get their religious viewpoints taught in public school, it’s THEIR Constitutional rights that are being violated. If you have a viewpoint you want to express, and it’s religious (and please don’t insult our intelligence by continuing to claim ID is secular)then by all means, express it in an appropriate place, like Sunday School. But not in science class.

    ID is not science, and there is no controversy within the scientific community. You may believe the religious propagandists that there is one, but in fact, with a little research, you’ll find that the “controversy” is a sham, designed (see the Wedge document) to insert religion in our science classes.

  12. Evolution is a theory with just as much merit as intelligent design.
    Evolution is a scientific theory with supporting evidence from geography, anthropology, astronomy, physics, and (within biology) genomics, molecular biology, developmental biology, genetics, population genetics, biochemsitry… Intelligent design is an attempt to make science out of personal opinion: the opinion of a few people who look at some aspects of life and decide it must be designed. There is no experimental evidence to indicate these things are designed, nor is there any experimental evidence of a designer.

    ID does not belong in a science class because it is profoundly unscientific. It’s the equivalent of demanding that astrology get equal time in an intro to psychology class.

  13. That we can actually observe people claiming “Evolution is a theory with just as much merit as intelligent design” demonstrates how poorly educated in science the U.S. is. “God” help us in the future as we lose our competitive edge.

  14. That we can actually observe people claiming “Evolution is a theory with just as much merit as intelligent design” demonstrates how poorly educated in science the U.S. is. “God” help us in the future as we lose our competitive edge.

    Kinda sad, isn’t it? The same people who insist that god be part of our science curriculum decry the low test scores of our students in comparison with those of other countries.

  15. “I won’t deny that there are many similarities between ID and Creationism but the difference is that ID doesn’t specify who the creator was, simply that our world was created by an intelligent force.”

    A totally untestable assertion. One key aspect of a scientific theory is that it *is* testable. The existence of an intelligent force, like the Flying Spaghetti Monster (, is a matter of _faith_, not science. Faith is the realm of religion, and government sanctioned statements regarding faith violate the establishment clause.

    Besides, one of the exhibits in the trial is an early version of the Panda book where the term “intelligent design” was originally “creation science”. Changing words doesn’t change the intent of the proponents — to force a particular religious doctrine as “science”.

  16. “just because scientists say something doesn’t make it scientific.”

    More to the point, just because scientists hold certain beliefs as individuals doesn’t entitle those beliefs to be taught in science classes. Crick and Carl Sagan were potheads, but that doesn’t mean their views on that subject are necessarily science lessons. And while Sagan believed in the probability of ET life, even his authority doesn’t elevate that opinion to a fact worthy of the classroom. Linus Pauling’s Vitamin C advocacy likewise doesn’t measure up.

    It’s so easy for me to see the difference between individual opinions (such as, complexity in the universe requires a designer) and the body of scientific facts.

  17. Hey Everyman,

    As soon as Intelligent Design “theorists” provide a mathematically rigorous definition of irreducible complexity, as well as a suitable criteria for determining the difference between something that is irreducibly complex, and something that is not, then I will consider Intelligent Design to be worthy of at least some casual scientific interest.

    Until then, you don’t have a leg to stand on. All your arguments are pure sophistry and you know it.

  18. The “the Designer doesn’t HAVE to be God!” argument rings so very false, and for good reason.

    After all – if life is “irreducibly complex” and cannot come about naturally…

    …where did the designer come from?
    Was it natural? No! By definition, ID denies the possibility of the designer being natural – otherwise the entire premise that life could not arise naturally is false.

    And what’s the common name for a supernatural designer? Anyone?

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