Kenneth Miller: A Textbook Biologist at the Dover Trial

Fifteen years ago in the Dover Trial, one of the star witnesses was Kenneth Miller, a textbook biologist. He has many stories to tell.

Fifteen years ago in the Dover Trial, one of the star witnesses was Kenneth Miller, a textbook biologist. Turns out that Miller does not like that title at all. He is a research scientist at Brown University in Rhode Island. One of his students graduated and became a scientist too, but then pressured and cajoled Miller into writing a textbook in biology. He never expected to be writing a textbook.

Turns out that university biologists are not rewarded for writing textbooks. Miller made no mention of this book when he went up for tenure. They might have been concerned he was waisting his time, and not writing enough papers and grants.

In 1990 when it was published, the Milller-Levine textbook was special, a break from how Biology textbooks were usually written. This may have been the first Biology textbook written by two biology professors with active research programs. The textbook was far thicker and denser with information than all its competitors. One of the salespeople from a rival derisively referred to the book as “the elephant book.” Miller’s marketing team took that as an opportunity. The put an elephant on the cover, called it the elephant book, telling teachers “an elephant never forgets!”

Rather than just presenting settled answers, the textbook also raised open questions. Would Archea bacteria someday be considered a new kingdom of life? These bacteria are as different from most bacteria as these bacteria are from us! Miller’s textbook posed the question. Sure enough, that is just what scientists came to understand of them. A whole new kingdom of life.

This textbook also landed him on the Witness stand in the Dover Trial. It was Ken Miller’s textbook that was being challenged by the school board there. This is not at all what he expected. His interview with Nathan Lents and I was entertaining. Come listen in on his experience at the Trial. This biologist has many stories to tell.

After discussing the Trial, Miller recounted his debate with Henry Morris, author of the Genesis Flood. Back in 1981, over 1,000 people attended. Miller marveled at how much interest this attracted from the public. Even a Nobel Laureate would not draw a crowd like this! He was hooked.

Morris vs. Miller (1981): Part 1
Morris vs. Miller (1981): Part 2

Back then, he had no idea what laid ahead. In 2005, 24 years later, was the year of the Dover Trial.

The audio for this debate is available at the National Center for Science Education’s channel, where Miller is now Chairman of their board. Enjoy the this great debate. We are almost at its 40th anniversary, and I’m sure the science from both speakers needs a massive update.

Nov 15, 2020
Nov 15, 2020
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