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Leading intelligent design critic to speak Wednesday

Kenneth R. Miller, a leading critic of "intelligent design" who argues that belief in God is compatible with belief in Darwin’s theory of natural selection, will give a public address at Lehigh on Wednesday.

Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, will speak at 7 p.m. in Packard Lab Auditorium on “Darwin’s Genome: Answering the Challenge of ‘Intelligent Design.’”

The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the university and the department of biological sciences.

Miller, author of the 1999 book Finding Darwin’s God—A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution, has actively opposed attempts to incorporate intelligent design into high school biology classes. He has appeared before school boards across the country to explain why most biologists object to including intelligent design in science curriculums. Miller is also the coauthor of widely used high school and college biology textbooks.

Intelligent design holds that the complex and seemingly purposeful arrangement of the components in many life systems suggests that a higher power, not just random evolution alone, must have played a role in the development of life. Intelligent-design advocates accept varying degrees of Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection, including a common ancestor to all living systems.

Miller is now serving as an expert witness for the American Civil Liberties Union, which sued Pennsylvania’s Dover Area School District after its school board voted last year to require that ninth-grade biology students be informed about intelligent design and other alternatives to Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

The case, now being tried in a federal court in Harrisburg, has drawn international media attention.

Serving as an expert witness for the Dover school board in the trial is Michael Behe, professor of biological sciences at Lehigh, author of Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution , and one of intelligent design’s leading proponents.

Miller and Behe have debated each other at the American Museum of Natural History, on the PBS-TV show Firing Line , and in other national venues. Their competing essays appeared in the 2004 book Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA .

In his book Finding Darwin’s God , Miller, a practicing Catholic, strives to reconcile what many people see as two incompatible stories of origins – belief in God and belief in the theory of natural selection.

“The conflict between these two versions of our history is real,” Miller has said, “and I do not doubt for a second that it needs to be addressed. What I do not believe is that the conflict is unresolvable. As more than one scientist has said, the truly remarkable thing about the world is that it actually does make sense. The parts fit, the molecules interact, the darn thing works. To people of faith, what evolution says is that nature is complete. God fashioned a material world in which truly free, truly independent beings could evolve.”

Scientific American praised Miller for “laying out the positions with care and clarity” in his book. Jacob Neusner, research professor of religion and theology at Bard College, called Miller “religion’s answer to Stephen Jay Gould’s scientific atheism and Brown University’s superstar in biology and religion.”

Miller, Neusner wrote in a review, “writes with sharp wit and in pungent prose and shows [in his book] not only why Darwinian evolution does not preclude the existence of God, but how remarkably consistent evolution is with religion.”

Francisco J. Ayala, the Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences at the University of California-Irvine, says that Miller “develops an affirmative answer … with powerful logic and evidence … [to the question] ‘Can evolution and God coexist?’

Finding Darwin’s God is an artfully constructed argument against both those who deny evolution and those who use science to justify a materialist worldview,” Ayala wrote in a review.

Miller will meet with Lehigh students and with local and regional high school science teachers during his visit to the university.

For more information on his talk, contact the department of biological sciences at (610) 758-6235.

--Kurt Pfitzer

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2005

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