Mendel Medal recipient delivers Darwinian lecture

Erika Crowell

Kenneth R. Miller, a biology professor from Brown University, and this year’s recipient of the Mendel Medal award, gave a lecture on “Darwinian Grandeur: A Biologist’s Journey Through Evolution’s Tangled Bank,” on Nov. 20.

The Mendel Medal is awarded to outstanding scientists who have worked to help the advance of science and demonstrated that there is no fundamental conflict between science and religion.

Miller fits this criteria well as the author of the acclaimed book, “Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution.”

In addition, he is the author of widely used biology textbooks and a firm supporter and defender of evolution.

Miller humbly introduced himself to the packed theater of students and faculty as a cell biologist and articulately began to explain how he was introduced to evolution.

“At a moment of weakness you can get drawn into writing a textbook or even into a different subject,” he explained.

His textbook was used in Dover, Pa., where the concept of “intelligent design” had been elected to be taught to students.

Intelligent design is a form of creationism, according to Miller.

“People easily choose to believe in intelligent design rather than evolution because intelligent design seems to explain everything,” he said. “You just say the designer did it.”

The teachers in Dover refused to teach the students intelligent design because of its lack of scientific support and brought the issue to court.

There, Miller testified as an evolutionist and was cross-examined. The judge ruled that “intelligent design” was a religious idea masquerading as science.

“The evolution battle is not finished,” Miller said. “It’s the result of a continuing attack against scientific reasoning itself. America’s scientific soul is at stake.”

He then showed the audience statistics showing that only Turkey had a lower percentage of people who believe in evolution than that of the United States.

“Evolution is portrayed not simply as wrong but as genuinely dangerous,” he said.

He said the way to convince people is to focus on the distinction between science and belief.

Miller explained how evolution is compatible with faith.

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 statement on creationism versus evolution: “This clash is an absurdity because on one hand there is much scientific proof in favor of evolution, which appears as a reality that we must see and which enriches our understanding of life and being as such.”

Miller reminded the audience of St. Augustine’s principal that one should not read scripture as science.

He also referred to scientists such as Father George Lemaitre, a man of faith who introduced the Big Bang Theory and general relativity, and Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian whose ideas on genetics ultimately led to evolution.

In all, Miller stated, evolution should augment not only a scientific view of the world but also a spiritual one.

“Dr. Miller’s lecture was a fun and pleasant ride through time, with stops along the way marked by scientific discoveries and pro-evolution activities,” said Mirela Damian, an associate professor in the department of computing sciences. “I believe that Dr. Miller’s portrait should belong right next to Epperson and Darwin in the photo he projected for us, as one of the greatest defenders of evolution.”