More musings on Kitzmiller

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Courtroom Sketch of Ken Miller testifying at the Dover trial, via betterrightthanhappy

The lesson of Kitzmiller: Science bridges divides, by Nathan H. Lents and S. Joshua Swamidass, Dec 28, 2020 , shows how the Kitzmiller trial itself, and, more generally, the defence of science against obscurantism, bridges the gulf between believers and nonbelievers. My own view is that the deeper gulf is one found within all three Abrahamic religions, between those who are willing to accommodate their reading of the sacred texts to scientific (and I would add historical) reality, and those who insist that these texts, literally interpreted, are the infallible word of God.

Ken Miller, Genie Scott & Barbara Forrest: 15 Years After Dover, by Faizal Ali, Dec 26, 2020, with links to interviews of three major participants; Ken Miller, Eugenie Scott, and Barbara Forrest. As many readers will know, Ken Miller, biology professor and major textbook author, has been defending evolution against creationist attacks for 40 years, Eugenie Scott was at the time director of the (US) National Center for Science Education, which acted as consultant to the plaintiffs and was instrumental in forming the legal strategy, and Barbara Forrest, philosopher, testified that the trial that Intelligent Design should not be considered science because of its reliance on the supernatural.

As this blog piece points out, that last argument (technically: intrinsic methodological naturalism) should give us pause, and is now rejected by many philosophers and scientists, including me, in favour of a provisional methodological naturalism that would be willing to examine supernaturalist explanations on their merits, if they had any. Indeed, the piece argues that judge Jones’ blistering verdict in this case was only made possible by the incompetence of the School Board, who made their religious motivation obvious.

The Discovery Institute continues to claim that Kitzmiller was wrongly decided, and even that “recent scientific discoveries have confirmed and extended the concept of irreducible complexity.” Most recently, to mark the 15th anniversary of the trial, the DI featured a debate on the issues between Michael Behe and Joshua Swamidass. While I have a poor opinion of Behe’s ideas, I admire his willingness to discuss them. I would also praise him for not abandoning his post at the trial when things got difficult, unlike several of his Discovery Institute colleagues.

I was curious to see what are the major creationist organisations had to say about the trial, even though they were not directly involved. Answers in Genesis mentions Kitzmiller as part of a recent (December 2020) long discussion of US court cases, claiming that “The Kitzmiller ruling has stifled debate in classrooms and prevented full discussion of topics related to biological origins. The result is that indoctrination has replaced education, at least in this one area.” No need to spell out my own reaction to that claim. Also in December 2020, Creation Ministries International offers us a review, by Jerry Bergman, of Ron Milliner’s Fake Evidence: A look at evolutionary evidence for over 90 years in the court cases from Scopes to Kitzmiller, Elm Hill (Elm Hill Books appears to be a self-publishing service under the umbrella of HarperCollins Christian Publishing). This review is not yet available to non-subscribers, but it seems clear from elsewhere that the book’s title is a fair summary of its thesis, that it is yet another example of the evolution-is-a-conspiracy genre, and that Jerry Bergman can be expected to approve.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on December 31, 2020, in Creationism, Education, Evolution, Politics, Religion and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. Michael Fugate

    I find it interesting that at Peaceful Science, apologist scientists tell us we should believe because “no one would die for a lie” while people just did for the lie that Trump won the re-election. Swamidass’ apologetics is sophomoric on its best days.


  2. FWIW, Joshua Swamidass is a good friend of mine, I admire his ability to maintain civil dialogue with such an amazingly diverse group of people, and, at his invitation, a longer version of this piece is avaiable at Peaceful Science


  3. He seems like a nice guy and I wish him well. My problem is with people who should know better telling others that not only have they “scientifically” studied all other religions, but “the evidence” backs Christianity. It can’t; that is not how religion works. I can respect place-based religions; they have a built-in ecology. Christianity is based on a faulty apocalyptic vision and yet these guys claim it is still true?


    • “telling others that not only have they “scientifically” studied all other religions, but “the evidence” backs Christianity”. Did he actually say that? If so, you should leave a comment in the place where he did so. I know that he claims that science is *compatible* with his version of Christianity, but that’s a very different thing. I don’t think there’s anything that I say about him in this post that would give you reason to disagree with him


      • Read the posts under “Confessions” to see what he is endorsing on the site. One such post attempts to treat choosing a religion as a multiple choice question with a single correct answer.


      • Was that *his* confession? If not, how is he endorsing it? Allowing a post does not imply agreement. Actually, I admire his ability to get such a range of views clearly expressed on his site. In any case, that does not amount to him saying ‘“the evidence” backs Christianity’. And even if he did, I still don’t see why you think I should be criticising him for anything I mention in this post.


      • Let me add – reconciling evolution and Christianity does not require Christianity to be true – whatever it might mean for a religion to be true. As with Biologos, the point for apologetics ministries is to keep Christians as Christians and not the acceptance of any science. If a choice need be made, then Christianity is deemed much more important than evolution or climate change or vaccination. It is Swamidass’ site, but doubling down on Christianity as the only true religion does scientific literacy no favors.


  4. This case seems to have been instrumental in quashing ID teaching in public schools. I don’t track it, but it seems like the ID folks have pretty much given up trying to get it into the schools in the US. I’m not sure what they do , besides try to keep the already-convinced anti evolutionists heartened with endless articles and books. Got to keep the donor base energized.

    I know a lot of younger evangelical Christians and they mostly don’t seem to be very interested in the whole creation/evolution debate. So this whole thing should slowly fade down with time.


  5. I just found this place from pandas thumb and don’t know how popular it is but i’ll give it a try.
    I’m Canadian but the right to free speech and ideas is the absolute right of americans and so no censership is legal much less based on state rejection of God/Christianity/religion as options for what is true in origins. this case was stupid for even being judges by some small town judge. its unbintelligent in all ways. creationists should and can clobber the bad guys in court cases to introduce creationism in public institutions.


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