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Criticisms of "Finding Darwin's God"
by Kenneth R. Miller
Cliff Street Books, New York, 1999
Comments by A. S. Lodge March, 2004
"Evolutionary theory is a well-defined, consistent, and productive set of explanations for how evolutionary change takes place" (p.54, para. 3)
Miller offers neither a definition nor a reference to a definition of the NDT. According to Macbeth, the NDT was discussed for 50 years but never formulated. I have listed my recent difficulties in seeking a definition. Had Miller given a definition, he would have been faced with the extremely severe difficulty presented by Morowitz' one-cell probability estimate. Miller doesn't mention this.
Miller's Intelligent Design Theorem: (so named by ASL)
"It's not logically tenable to allow that evolution could have produced some species but not others; therefore, the explanation of design must be invoked for the origin of every species" (p. 93, para. 2)
Miller offers no proof of this theorem whose validity is not self-evident. I cannot see why Miller thinks that this theorem is valid. He goes on to use this theorem as a basis for criticisms of Intelligent Design proposals advanced by some who find difficulties with the NDT hypothesis.
Miller's final remarks (p. 292) seem to suggest that he believes that
(a) God created the universe, including the NDT mechanisms
(b) which were given free reign to create life and all living organisms on Earth without further Divine intervention.
If this is indeed Miller's view, then his God must be regarded as a superbly Intelligent Designer because, for example, certain physical constants have values which must have been assigned with incredible accuracy for our existence to be possible (p. 228). (Some try to argue this problem away by postulating the existence of a large number of universes of which ours is but one; one can immediately see the absurdity of this suggestion by asking the question: How many universes have to exist in order to make the validity of this postulate seem reasonable?) Why does Miller support Intelligent Design in the creation of the Universe in general but not in the generation of living organisms on Earth in particular? Why could not God have intervened at a few chosen moments to influence evolution on Earth? Miller gives no answer that I could find.
It also seems hard to imagine that God should so love certain products of random, spontaneous, mutation and natural selection that He would send His only begotten Son to Earth in order to save these products from the consequences of sin. Can NDT mechanisms (which, Miller claims, have accomplished so much on Earth) also be credited with the creation of evil and sin?
Micro- and macro-evolution
"If microevolution can redesign one gene in fewer than two hundred generations (which in this case took only thirteen days) what principles of biochemistry or molecular biology would prevent it from redesigning dozens or hundreds of genes over a few weeks or months to produce a distinctly new species? There are no such principles…" (p. 108, para. 4)
Spetner (1997) disagrees. He claims that, in order that the NDT should have been able to produce macroevolution at all, it is essential that:
(a) information must have been added by mutations;
and, in order for macroevolution to have arisen by NDT mechanisms in the time available,
(b) there must have been enough potentially adaptive mutations (PAMs) at each evolutionary step.
Spetner claims (p. 160) that "not even one mutation has been observed that adds a little information to the genome…..We have here a serious challenge to neo-Darwinian theory." Miller does not mention this.
Spetner also calculates that, in order to get a new species in 500 evolutionary steps, at least one million PAMs would be needed at each step (p. 104). He then shows that it follows that, if the variations arise from random copying errors, convergent evolution is impossible (p. 110). This, too, is a serious difficulty for the NDT. Miller does not mention this.
How widely held is the belief in Darwinism?
"In the real world of science, in the hard-bitten realities of lab bench and field station, the intellectual triumph of Darwin's great idea is total". (p. 165, para. 2)
This statement is false. At a 1999 conference on "Genes and Development" in Basel, Switzerland, "about 50 European biologists and philosophers of science were present, all of them critical of the neo-Darwinian doctrine that genes control embryo development. One speaker began her talk with some jokes about the obligatory confessions of faith in Darwinism that are expected of speakers at scientific conferences. She went on to explain that DNA sequences do not even uniquely determine the sequence of amino acids in proteins, much less the larger features of cells or embryos….A participant pointed out that most biologists already know this. The speaker asked: `Then why don't they say so publicly?' The participant responded that it would `reduce their chances of getting money'." At an earlier conference in Germany, the speaker "made some remarks critical of neo-Darwinian evolution, after which a prominent American biologist and textbook-writer…told her that she would be wise not to criticize neo-Darwinism if she ever found herself speaking to an American audience because they would write her off as a creationist - even though she's not." (Wells, 2000)
Rates of Change in Evolution
Miller refers to Reznick's 11-year experiments which showed that the presence or absence of certain predators caused changes in certain guppies' sizes at rates which were up to a million times greater than changes in other organisms deduced from fossil records. Miller assumes that NDT mechanisms were responsible. He states: "No one would seriously argue, even for a moment, that novel genetic mechanisms were needed to account for the effects of these eleven years (about eighteen generations) of natural selection on Reznick's guppies". (p. 110, para. 3)
He is mistaken. Spetner proposed an alternative mechnism in which "the presence of the predator induced the changes in the individual fish". (Spetner, 1997, p. 206). Miller does not mention this possibility. In 2001, I emailed Miller the question: "Is it known whether or not chance mutations played a significant role in these experiments?" Miller replied: "…detailed molecular testing that might pinpoint the exact genes involved in differences between individuals and populations was well beyond the scope of their work. 'Chance mutations,' as you call them, play a role in all natural populations because they are the source of genetic diversity". I replied: "Has anyone measured the frequency of beneficial chance mutations in guppies? If, for example, this frequency were 1 per thousand years, then clearly the mechanism of change in Reznick's experiments could not have been chance mutations + natural selection." I have received no reply to this question.
Reznick et al. (1997, p. 1936) state that "Our work cannot address the efficacy of mechanisms other than natural election".
According to the NDT, macroevolution proceeds due to random, spontaneous mutations culled by natural selection and, possibly, other mechanisms. Natural selection must wait until mutations occur. The overall evolution rate will depend on both the mutation rate and the selection rate. Miller argues that selection rates are orders of magnitude greater than evolution rates. If this is correct, selection rates must, then, be orders of magnitude greater than mutation rates. Macroevolutionary rates must then be dominated by the slowest process, namely, the production of random, spontaneous, mutations. Paradoxically, therefore, the faster the changes due to natural selection, the less important is this mechanism in affecting macroevolutionary rates. The guppies data of Reznick et al. thus give no support to Miller's claim: "What this means, of course, is that the microevolutionary processes so scorned by the critics of evolution are more than sufficient to account for even the fastest transitions documented in the fossil record". (p. 111, para. 3)
Macroevolution requires the creation of new characters. None were created in the above guppies experiments; guppies of different sizes were present throughout: only their relative numbers changed. This situation is thus, in this respect, similar to that in the peppered moth studies.
Michael Behe (1998) has argued that the NDT cannot account for the origin of irreducibly complex systems. Miller criticizes some of Behe's arguments. Behe has replied to some of these criticisms at http://www.arn.org/behe/mb_response.htm.
M. J. Behe (1998) Darwin's Black Box (Simon & Schuster, New York)
D. H. Reznick, F. H. Shaw, F. H. Rodd, R. G. Shaw (1997) Science 275, 28 March, pp.1934 -1937
Lee Spetner (1997) Not By Chance (Judaica Press, Brooklyn, New York)
Jonathan Wells (2000) Icons of Evolution (Regnery Publishing, Washington DC) pp. 192-193.