Finding Ken Miller's Point

Dembski response to Ken Miller's comments in Finding Darwin's God

William A. Dembski
Discovery Institute
June 28, 2000

Ken Miller's Finding Darwin's God is currently the best critique of intelligent design in book form, but still comes up short. I won't respond to Miller's critiques of Phillip Johnson and Michael Behe, since they can speak for themselves. Suffice it to say that Miller's critique of their work hardly constitutes a knock-out blow, and the debate will continue, with Johnson fine-tuning his critique of naturalism and Behe further clarifying his notion of irreducible complexity so that Miller's alleged counterexamples fall flat.

My concern here is with two references to my own work in Miller's book, references which to my mind cut to the heart of Miller's critique of intelligent design, but also point up his need for further careful thinking. On p. 172 he writes: "In casting naturalism as an intellectual devil, Dembski concludes that Christians may accept material explanations for the change of seasons and the light of the sun, but they apparently may not do so for the origin of species. How he makes this conclusion is beyond me . . . ."

For Miller it is simply inconceivable that one can invoke naturalistic explanations for some things but not for others. Now, I can understand why he might resist such a distinction (Darwin did himself in his Origin). But in my published work I do give an account of why such a distinction is legitimate. In the case of sunsets and changes in seasons, one invokes physical necessities that function reliably over time and do not need the guidance of an intelligent agent. In the case of the origin of species, on the other hand, there is good reason to think that speciation requires the generation of specified complexity and that specified complexity cannot be manufactured by undirected physical processes. My entire book The Design Inference is devoted to giving such an account. Miller fails to cite this book, and instead offers an argument from incredulity. Specified complexity is a reliable empirical marker of intelligence and it is exhibited in biological systems. That's my fundamental claim and that's the claim that Miller has yet to grapple with.

Next, on p. 216 Miller quotes me as writing "The world is in God's hand and never leaves his hand. Christians are not deists. God is not an absentee landlord." As a good theist, Miller agrees with this statement--God is at every moment involved with the world. Nonetheless, Miller finds fault with where I take my theism because I argue that natural causes are insufficient to account for certain structures in nature. Miller wants God (and presumably this is Darwin's God) to interact with the world seamlessly through natural causes. Now it is certainly a logical possibility that this is God's mode of interaction with the world. But it is not a logical necessity that this is the mode by which God must interact with the world. Natural causes, as understood by modern science, are causes that as far as science can tell are undirected. That God should be limited to using such and only such causes as his mode of sustaining and interacting with the world simply doesn't follow. Moreover, if specified complexity is, as I argue, a reliable empirical marker of intelligence, then natural causes as understood by Miller would be fundamentally incomplete. This is a possibility that Miller has yet to engage. Perhaps he will in subsequent work.