There is 'design' in nature, Brown biologist argues at AAAS

Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller has to hand one victory to the “intelligent design” crowd. They know how to frame an issue.

“The idea that there is ‘design’ in nature is very appealing,” Miller said. “People want to believe that life isn’t purposeless and random. That’s why the intelligent design movement wins the emotional battle for adherents despite its utter lack of scientific support.

“To fight back, scientists need to reclaim the language of ‘design’ and the sense of purpose and value inherent in a scientific understanding of nature,” he said.

In a Feb. 17, 2008 symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, Miller will argue that science itself, including evolutionary biology, is predicated on the idea of “design” – the correlation of structure with function that lies at the heart of the molecular nature of life.

Miller will make his case in a session titled “Communicating Science in a Religious America”. Miller will join seven other experts to discuss ways to craft communication efforts around evolution, stem cell research, climate change and nanotechnology that are sensitive to religious communities while remaining true to science.

Miller is a cell biologist and the Royce Family Professor for Teaching Excellence at Brown. Miller is coauthor of four high school and college biology textbooks, which are used by millions of students nationwide, and is regarded as America’s leading defender of Darwin’s theory of evolution. This year in South Carolina, Miller successfully defended one of his textbooks against an anti-evolution attack before the state school board. In 2005, he served as lead witness in the trial on evolution and intelligent design in Dover, Pennsylvania. His popular book, Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution, addresses the scientific status of evolutionary theory and its relationship to religious views of nature.

Miller will use arguments from his new book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul to be published by Viking Press in May, for his AAAS talk. Miller will argue that the scientific community must address the attractiveness of the “design” concept and make the case that science itself is based on the idea of design – or the regularity of organization, function, and natural law that gives rise to the world in which we live.

He points out that structural and molecular biologists routinely speak of the design of proteins, signaling pathways, and cellular structures. He also notes that the human body bears the hallmarks of design, from the ball sockets that allows hips and shoulders to rotate to the “s” curve of the spine that allows for upright walking.

“There is, indeed, a design to life – an evolutionary design,” Miller said. “The structures in our bodies have changed over time, as have its functions. Scientists should embrace this concept of ‘design,’ and in so doing, claim for science the sense of orderly rationality in nature to which the anti-evolution movement has long appealed.”

Source: Brown University

Explore further

Shape affects performance of micropillars in heat transfer

Citation: There is 'design' in nature, Brown biologist argues at AAAS (2008, February 17) retrieved 16 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Feb 17, 2008
Miller doesn't understand that "design" is a conscious process, the result of purposeful behavior. Or, he is postulating that "evolution" is sentient. Sounds like a religious argument.

Feb 17, 2008
One can believe in both God and Evolution. It is only ignorance of each others fields that lead preachers and scientists to argue. ("How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?")

Why should God have been so dumb as to have to keep "tinkering" with His creation? It IS what He wants it to be and has been for at least 13.7 billion of what we call years.

Suppose God had intended to give us free will: wouldn't He (She?) have created a world in which it would be impossible to prove there is or is not a God? The "design" obviously would be intended to allow for plausable deniability at every stage.

What is it that an "Almighty God" could possibly want from us? Slaves, fearful of His power or grateful for mere existence, are a "dime a dozen" to a god! Nature's/Creator's greatest gift is our free will. All religion springs from humanity confronting this freedom. Why?

What does God want? What is the only thing that can be given to an Almighty that requires the giver be free from coersion? Some call it Love; some call it Faith. Either way, it exists only when it is impossible to prove/disprove the existence of God.

I get the impression that lots of preachers and scientists overlook this simple logic. There is structure to the world, because there is. It is obvious because the elements of the universe have been self-organizing themselves since the Big Bang. But that proves nothing either way because, by definition, if God is a) almighty and b) intends us to have free will, then logically the universe would obviously be structured so as to hide the "hand of God". Some say the "hand" is hidden in the open and obvious for all (with Faith) to see; others deny this... but again, only because they have faith that "it just happened". By definition, the two world simply do not intersect.

Feb 18, 2008
Oh brother... the antifanatics are going to have a freaking field day with this one.

Feb 18, 2008
is this guy a scientist or just another leech politician breathing
our air?

Feb 18, 2008
Here is a hint:

Kenneth Miller is an extremely reputable evolutionary biologist, who just got done testifying in Florida on behalf of the The National Center for Science Education. He has an absolutely unblemished record of speaking out against creationists and "intelligent design".


Sep 15, 2008
The thing that's always annoyed me about ID is the intellectual laziness, and the way it tries to play a cheeky game with science. It's like...
"God created us as we are."
*huge time and effort gap*
"No, we've actually seen not only evidence, but mechanisms of evolution at work now."
"Uh... ok. What I MEANT was God created THAT, not the other thing - he made the PROCESS that led to what we are!"
"So basically when and wherever there's room to doubt something, you're going to shoehorn God into it aren't you?"
"What's the matter? Falling behind, science?"

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more