2013 Kenneth Miller regresses in his explanation of science

Miller and Levine’s Scientific Honesty?

 

When it comes to explaining how science works, Kenneth Miller and Joe Levine are the Jekyll and Hyde of biology textbook authors. In their 2011 on-line textbook for Texas school children, they masterfully explain scientific methodology and then just two years later they deliberately weakened their explanations.

In 2011, they clearly explain how science tests hypotheses by what they call “Experimentation” or “Observational Studies.” They describe “Experimentation” as when “the experimenter caries out a controlled experiment in which just one variable is changed to test its effect on the results.”

“Observational Studies” are explained as testing when “controlled experiments are simply not possible. For example, it would be impossible to perform a controlled experiment to test a hypothesis regarding the origin of the universe.” They go on to state “When experiments are not possible, scientists may gather data by making observations that might tend to support or reject the hypothesis.”

They then explain “Data in the form of both results and observations serves as evidence for scientists to use to test their predictions.” They conclude their discussion of what science is by stating “Only questions that can be tested against collected data and evidence can be analyzed by science.”

A better discussion about how science works and the key role of testing would be hard to find. Congratulations Dr. Miller and Dr. Levine!

However, just two years later, in 2013, Miller and Levine seem to forget about how science tests scientific hypotheses with “Observational Studies.” Their latest textbook explanation of how science works is silent about testing with “Observational Studies”; they only present Texas school children with what they now label as “Designing Controlled Experiments.” There is no mention of the impossibility of testing for the origin of the universe with a “controlled experiment.” While they do mention that sometimes experiments are impossible, they only state it is because it might be impractical or unethical; they do even state that it may because it actually is impossible!

Why this intentional backwards leap from 2011 to 2013 in explaining scientific methodology? Why deny Texas school children the better more complete explanation from 2011? I do not know their motivation but I do recognize the impact of this dishonest presentation of scientific methodology. It denies Texas school children the very scientific methodological tool they need to analyze and evaluate evolution. Evolution, like the origin of the universe, is tested by “observational studies.” Scientists examine the fossil record and cellular complexity for historic clues or “data” to test the hypothesis that all life is descended from a common ancestor. Personally, given what evolution must explain, I find the evolutionist’s “collected data” simply insufficient.  For example, in Miller and Levine’s text, they present NO data to support evolutionary explanations for the complexity of the cell—none! All they present is “just-so” stories and—I presume—hope that the students do not realize that evolution has not been scientifically tested by the evidence.

Miller and Levine claim to stand for scientific accuracy and integrity. What do you think?

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2011 Testing evolution by experiments and observations

 

Major Blow to Evolution

 

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes” the deceivers’ spell is broken by a simple child’s cry. In science, evolution’s spell could be broken by some simple youth textbooks—new biology books in Texas that expose evolution’s inability to explain the complexity of the cell. The texts were written to new standards that were adopted in March 2009. Science, immediately grasping their significance, reported “New science standards for Texas schools strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution.”

 

Charles Darwin did not even know the cell needed an explanation; it went unmentioned in The Origin of Species. As details of the cell’s complexity became known, one would have intuitively thought that scientists would have reconsidered Darwin’s hypothesis. How could natural selection, evolution’s main mechanism, have created such gargantuan complexity? Instead, already confident in the certainty of evolution they look for bits and pieces of cell biology for confirming evidence. Thus, they miss the big picture and do not seem to realize they offer no explanations for the origin and development of the cell’s organelles, biochemical pathways and complex molecules.

 

Science tests explanations—classically, with controlled experiments, and historically, by collecting evidence that supports or rejects predictions. Genetics is an excellent example of classical testability. Gregor Mendel, in 1865 after growing 29,000 pea plants, empirically deduced the basic laws of inheritance—becoming the father of genetics. And as a result, almost nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of genetics. Continental drift is an excellent example of historical testability. The obvious fit of the coastlines of Africa and South America with similar corresponding geologic formations, along with the eventual discovery of the Mid Atlantic Ridge and sea-floor spreading make a convincing argument. Likewise, evolution is tested historically; thus, evolutionists need to present convincing evidence.

 

What must the evidence explain? In 1998, Bruce Alberts, President of the National Academy of Sciences, gives us a good idea as he described the cell as a collection of protein machines.

 

“…the entire cell can be viewed as a factory that contains an elaborate network of interlocking assembly lines, each of which is composed of a set of large protein machines… Why do we call the large protein assemblies that underlie cell function protein machines? Precisely because, like the machines invented by humans to deal efficiently with the macroscopic world, these protein assemblies contain highly coordinated moving parts.”

 

We will evaluate the evidence provided in one of the new textbooks. The author is Kenneth Miller, a prominent evolutionist who served as the plaintiff’s lead expert witness in the 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover Intelligent Design trial. Science, in June 2009, reported his prediction that “The new Texas standards leave plenty of room for the authors to explain the robustness of evolutionary theory….” Therefore, Miller’s explanations provide a fair sample to test evolutionary evidence concerning the cell.

 

What evidence does Miller present? In seven pages, he cites only two specific facts: (1) a single cell organism engulfs an alga that then acquires the photosynthetic ability of the alga, and (2) two distinct classes of bacteria share some similar enzymes. Would finding a radio in an automobile and finding identical bolts and nuts in a lawnmower and a scuba tank explain their complexity? And, they can’t even reproduce.

 

Miller also explains that scientists have discovered that: (1) several cell organelles have their own DNA, (2) special molecules are vital in protein synthesis, (3) some biochemical pathways may have “borrowed” proteins from another pathway, (4) a bacterium adapts to a new food source—man-made nylon, and (5) “borrowed” proteins might have been used to form a new protein machine. That’s it for the evidence he cites to test the evolutionary hypothesis.

 

His predicted “robust” explanations have failed science’s requirements for historical testability; the evidence is simply insufficient. This is not a surprise; it was expected. In that June 2009 Science article, I also made a prediction: “The explanations offered [in the texts] will be so weak that students who are skeptical of evolution will see the weaknesses for themselves.”

 

Even evolutionists should find this analysis useful. In an interview in 2009, Jerry Coyne, author of Why Evolution is True, stated “professional evolutionists don’t seem to know what the supporting evidence is: many of them just take it on faith, that is, on the authority of their forerunners.” Maybe we should have less faith and more evidence.

 

This issue is even bigger than evolution; scientific integrity itself is at stake. If, for example, evolution has trouble explaining the origin of a cell nucleus or protein machines, scientists should say so. Texas students, understanding that science demands testability, can now use the evidence presented and test evolution’s explanations for themselves. This is the way science operates. Actually, those 2009 standards did not “strike a major blow to the teaching of evolution;” they restored its integrity.

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2009 — Kenneth Miller boasts of robustness of future Texas biology books coverage of evolution

Science story June 2009

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2009 Editorial in the Austin American-Statesman the week before adopting new science standards

Austin American-Statesman
Opinion 

COMMENTARY

McLeroy: Enlisting in the culture war

Don McLeroy, SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is the greatest challenge facing science education in Texas? The answer is simple: to make sure an excellent teacher is in every classroom. What’s the greatest challenge in writing the state science standards? It is identifying appropriate content that builds from grade to grade and leaves our high school graduates college and work force ready. However, the greatest difficulty in writing these standards is the culture war over evolution.

The controversy exists because evolutionists, led by academia’s far-left, along with the secular elite opinion-makers, have decreed that questioning of evolution is not allowed, that it is only an attempt to inject religion or creationism into the classroom. Even Texas’ 20-year-old requirement to teach the scientific strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses and theories has come under attack. Words that were uncontroversial and perfectly acceptable for nearly two decades are now considered “code words” for intelligent design and are deemed unscientific. The elite fear that “unscientific” weaknesses of evolution will be inserted into the textbooks, leaving students without a good science education and unprepared for the future, compelling businesses to shun “illiterate” Texas.

The editorial writers incessantly argue that evolution skeptics are motivated by religion, that they are anti-science and fundamentally dishonest. In contrast, evolutionists are portrayed as sincere defenders of the truth, completely honest and free of any ideological bias. But who is rejecting the empirical demonstration of science, that is, the directly observable and verifiable, for ideological purposes? Let us find out as we take a close-up look at a two-step solution to the controversy.

The first step is to define science in a way that is satisfactory to both sides. Using new wording from the National Academy of Sciences, Texas’ standards define science as “the use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomenon as well as the knowledge generated through this process.”

This definition replaces the academy’s 1999 language that was very controversial; it stated that science was “to provide plausible natural explanations for natural phenomena.” The change from “natural explanations” to “testable explanations” is very significant. The old definition was inferior in that it undermined both the philosophy of the naturalist and the supernaturalist. By circular reasoning, the naturalist was prevented from using science to prove that “nature is all there is,” and the supernaturalist was prevented from offering supernatural hypotheses. With the new definition, both the naturalist and the supernaturalist are free to make “testable” explanations. The debate can now shift from “Is it science?” to “Is it testable?”

The next step in resolving this controversy is simply to use the scientific method to weigh in on the issue of evolution. Consider the fossil record. What do we actually observe? What are the data?

Stephen Jay Gould stated: “The great majority of species do not show any appreciable evolutionary change at all. [This is called ‘stasis.’] These species appear … without obvious ancestors in the underlying beds, are stable once established and disappear higher up without leaving any descendants.”

“…but stasis is data…”

Once we have our observations, we can make a hypothesis. The controversial evolution hypothesis is that all life is descended from a common ancestor by unguided natural processes. How well does this hypothesis explain the data? A new curriculum standard asks Texas students to look into this question. It states: “The student is expected to analyze and evaluate the sufficiency or insufficiency of common ancestry to explain the sudden appearance, stasis, and sequential nature of groups in the fossil record.” It should not raise any objections from those who say evolution has no weaknesses; they claim it is unquestionably true.

And the standard is not religious but does raise a problem for the evolution hypothesis in that stasis is the opposite of evolution, and “stasis is data.”

If we are to train our students, engage their minds and, frankly, be honest with them, why oppose these standards? If the standards do not promote religion and they are not unscientific and they deal directly with the data, then possibly these standards are being opposed for ideological reasons. This supports the argument that this culture war exists, not because of the religious faith of creationists, but because of the rejection of the empirical demonstration of science by academia’s far-left and the secular elite opinionmakers.

McLeroy is chairman of the State Board of Education.

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Is this science?

Comments on evolutionary convergence from Kenneth Miller’s Only a Theory, page 152-153

 

… Run the tape of life again, starting from the Cam­brian or wherever one might choose, and it’s almost inconceivable that you’d get hairless bipedal primates with brains big enough to endow them with self-awareness, reflective thought, and calculus.

But, upon reflection, that’s not really the issue.

The issue is not whether the exact scenarios of this planet’s actual natural history would be repeated. They clearly would not. The genuine question is what sort of living world would emerge from a second or third running of the tape of life. Although we cannot predict the detailed outcome, this much we do know: Life vigorously explores adaptive space, and it finds its way to the same niches in that space again and again. One can, for example, study the ecological roles played by dinosaurs in various habitats—herbivores, scavengers, predators, keystone species—and discover that the exact same roles were quickly taken by mammals, birds, and reptiles when these great animals disappeared. Not even the most gifted naturalist could have looked at the world of the Creta­ceous and predicted exactly how the balance of nature would settle in the postdinosaur world–but even the dullest would have been confident that settled it would be.

Turning our attention to the special case of our own species, we can be fairly confident, just as Gould tells us, that our peculiar natural history would not repeat, and that self-awareness would not emerge from the primates. Indeed, we would have no reason to sup­pose that primates, mammals, or even vertebrates would emerge in a second running of the tape. But as life reexplored adaptive space, could we be certain that our niche would not be occupied? I would argue that we could be almost certain that it would be—that even­tually evolution would produce an intelligent, self-aware, reflective creature endowed with a nervous system large enough to solve the very same questions that we have and capable of discovering the events. It would be to maintain, for no particular reason that this corner of adaptive space was found once by the evolutionary process but could never be found again. Everything we know about evolu­tion suggests that it would, sooner or later, get to that niche.

I’ll admit that there’s nothing to be gained by pretending that one can settle this question of repeatability with any certainty. So far as we know, nature has conducted the experiment just once, and the result was us (plus a few million other species). Science demands repeatability, and that’s not possible in this case. Perhaps at some point in our own development we will discover a second experiment, a planet with characteristics similar to our own, on which we can truly test the grand principle of evolutionary conver­gence. Maybe that data will even be good enough to satisfy a Steve Gould. But that’s a question for another book, and maybe even for another century. The point for today is that it’s perfectly reason­able to maintain that evolution as we know and understand it was almost certain to produce a species like ours under conditions that prevail on Planet Earth.

 

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from 2003–Teach evolution? Yes, warts and all!

HoustonChronicle.com — http://www.HoustonChronicle.com | Section: Viewpoints, Outlook
Oct. 22, 2003, 6:40PM

Keep good science in, dogma out of textbooks

By DON McLEROY

THE State Board of Education is required by law to adopt textbooks that are factually correct and adequately cover the state curriculum. In the case of biology books, there is no place for dogma (the teaching of an opinion as a fact); science books must present good science.

The state curriculum, the future educational opportunities of Texas students, the strong general consensus of biologists, and intellectually stimulating teaching require that evolution be taught. However, evolutionary hypotheses that life spontaneously arose billions of years ago, and that all life since then is related by descent from a common ancestor — for example, that we share a common ancestor with a tree — raise tremendous difficulties. To fulfill the requirement of Texas law and good science, textbooks must adequately present these difficulties. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary, this is the issue.

What, if any, are the major difficulties? Are they presented in the textbooks? Will our Texas children be given the opportunity to hone their critical thinking skills on this controversial subject?

The spontaneous origin of life is beset with the most extreme difficulties. In the 50 years since Stanley Miller’s first scientific experiment that semi-randomly produced organic molecules from inorganic molecules, scientists have vigorously pursued the study of the origin of life. How has it progressed? According to Steve Benner, as stated on the International Society of the Study of the Origin of Life Web site, it is now clear that Miller-like experiments create too many biological molecules, in mixtures that are too complex to self-organize in a way rationally likely to lead to replication. The intrinsic reactivity of organic material under the influence of energy is to create tar, not life. If this up-to-date analysis from the premier scientific origin of life organization is not reflected in our modern textbooks, they violate state law.

Common descent is likewise beset with a myriad of difficulties. A cogent argument makes its appeal to authority, utility (it works), and empirical data to prove its point. How cogent is the common descent argument? The appeal to a qualified authority is the strongest argument for common descent; it is incredibly strong! This was readily apparent at our public testimony. Common descent’s critics are likewise highly qualified; they include, historically, the founder of paleontology and comparative anatomy, Cuvier, and the founder of modern taxonomy, Linnaeus.

Common descent’s appeal to utility is incredibly weak; adaptive variation has been empirically demonstrated, but it cannot be extrapolated as evidence for common descent. As for empiricism, common descent must be inferred historically and philosopher Karl Popper doubts if historical science is science

at all.

Also, a good theory displays the qualities of coherency, adequacy and consistency. How good a theory is common descent? Common descent is a completely naturalistic explanation for life, but does it adequately explain all the facts — for example, the fossil record? At first appearance, common descent explains the fossil record with old rocks with simple life and young rocks with more complex life. Yet a leading paleontologist, Niles Eldredge, has stated that: “We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports (the story of gradual change) all the while knowing it does not. Also, common descent is inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics and, many discoveries in the field of embryology.”

In spite of many scientific experts’ opinions, there is plenty of scientific evidence that demonstrates common descent difficulties; these are required by law to be presented in our children’s textbooks.

Scientific dogmatism about origin of life and common descent has no place in Texas biology books. Our state’s scientific educational system must not be corrupted. Teach evolution? Yes, warts and all!

McLeroy is a member of the Texas State Board of Education.

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from 2003–Copernicus’ “Heliocentric” Hypothesis—Yes Darwin’s “Common Descent” Hypothesis—NO

Historical Reality

An analysis writteni n 2003 that uses logical argument to show the weakness of evolution.

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