Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Trio of Model A's

ModelA, originally uploaded by nicmiller.

There were four in all, just across the lawn from my home office window, each just a decade or two older than the camera I used to take the picture.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Argoflex to the rescue.

I recently decided that my art deprived, academia-saturated soul needed a break. So I took up a new hobby: photography.

Wait. Haven't I been a photographer for quite some time? . . . not really.

The pictures I take now are black and white, square, film, and I develop them myself. My camera is old enough to have been new when my grandfather was not yet a teenager.

Here's on just like it:

It's delightfully simple yet extraordinarily difficult to use properly. I love it.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The princess has arrived, and she is perfection in a pamper.

Yes, folks, it is true. I really am a FATHER! But please, I prefer daddy, it's much less old-sounding. It is late, and my web connection here at the birthing center is giving me too much freedom on my laptop. ;-)

Design courtesy of yours truly (afterall, what else does one do to pass the time when one has a laptop with photoshop on it?), photo courtesy of our friend Amber. (That's a xanga link, sorry about the sign-in lock.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

They made it!

4 bikers made it all the way to Sarasota Florida from Millersburg, Ohio in 15 full days on the road.

Just unbelievable. They had the idea, they bought the bikes, they trained for like a month, and then they left. And they made it. Rumor has it the fundraiser totaled around $15,000 for the Thika, Kenya orphanage. Thank you to all who contributed, and thank you cyclists. Next year, shall we?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Teach the Controversy

The following is a paper I wrote for my freshman English composition class. It is here available for your enjoyment and constructive criticism.

Nic Miller
Prof J Sewell
English 112 Paper 3
13 April 2009

Teach the Controversy

In 1831, a twenty year old naturalist named Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle on a visit to the Galapagos Islands (AMNH). While there, he studied many different animals, but one group in particular caught his attention, the finches. Galapagos Finches came in many varieties, and Darwin made observations in his diary about these animals. He saw finches with long, narrow beaks who were successful at picking bugs out of narrow crevasses, and finches with short, stout beaks who could crack open nuts and eat the food inside. Over time, he came to the conclusion that these finches arose from a common ancestor. 30 years later, Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species and the world of biological Evolution by natural selection was born. A long time has passed since Darwin rocked the world with his book, and the biological sciences have never been the same. Still, there are many problems with Darwinian Evolution that are not often spoken of in the academic realm, and are rarely presented in a high school classroom. Intelligent Design (ID) is a legitimate, scientific alternative to Darwin’s problematic theory of evolution and should be given a platform in high school science classrooms in Ohio.

When Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species, it began to change the way that secular scientists thought. No longer could a biologist be content to explore the world under the assumption of supernatural causation only. Now there was an opportunity to see the world as only materialistic and naturalistic. Over time, science came to exclude the idea of the supernatural. Any question that could not be answered with a naturalistic explanation is considered to be outside the domain of science.

The theory of Evolution gained momentum throughout America in the early 20th century after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) offered to support anyone who directly opposed the legal position of the States in a classroom. Increasingly, the public bent under the perceived authority of the majority of the scientific community. In general, high schools in America now teach evolution to the exclusion of any other theory. Until recently, most schools have not even bothered to examine the problems facing evolution.

Intelligent Design was born out of the realization of some scientists that many organisms are too complex to originate spontaneously. “When we look at biology, very complex machine-like entities exist, which must be exactly as they are, or they cease to function properly” (IDEAC 2). Furthermore, some organisms or organ systems (e.g. bacterial flagella, blood clotting mechanisms) are such that they would have had no evolutionary ancestor, and therefore would not have arisen by mutation. These organisms, they say, arose specifically by design. A few common misconceptions exist regarding ID, chief among them that ID is merely a Christian worldview rebranded to appeal to a larger audience. As we will see, this is not the case.

In the last decade, high school classrooms have been caught in the crossfire over the Evolution versus Intelligent Design debate. Often when a set of Christian parents realize that a naturalistic explanation of the origin of the earth being taught to their children, they see it as incompatible with their religious beliefs, and they insist on having alternate views to Evolution presented in the classroom. Many times, Christian groups enlist the help of Intelligent Design proponents (who, ironically, often don’t share their Biblical creationist views) with scientific credentials to give credibility to their claims. This somewhat unfortunate association has brought a tremendous lack of perceived credibility onto supporters of Intelligent Design.

When thinking critically about this issue, the first questions that come to mind are questions such as “What is the controversy about? Is it scientific inquiry? Is it fueled by religion?”

The “Primary Axiom,” or central dogma of the evolution community is “that mutation combined with selection have created all biological information” (Sanford 5). This concept is untestable, and no one denies that. Rather paradoxically, this element of biological evolution isn’t strictly “scientific.” It turns nature into the deity, the agent of change (Johnson-Sheehan 6). Over the last few decades, a few highly-credentialed scientists have had the courage to challenge the Axiom. A few examples include Dr. John C. Sanford, a plant geneticist from Cornell University; Dr. John Baumgardner, a geophysicist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory with a Ph.D from UCLA; Dr. Michael Behe, Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University; Dr. Stephen Meyer, who earned his Ph.D in History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University. These scientists and hundreds of other doctoral scientists around the globe are daily doing their science with a view of the world that differs from popular opinion. Interestingly, these ID proponents are accused of approaching their work based on their worldview, instead of basing their worldview on the evidence they gather from their work. The paradox here is this: how can one form an opinion on something that was not observed when it happened and cannot be tested, namely, the origin of life?

In the scientific community, there is no “give and take” relationship on the issue of Evolution. Either you believe in molecules-to-man, or you are wrong. No open discussion exists. Many documented cases exist of scientists losing their positions over a single article supporting Intelligent Design. Few people are open to discussing the topic. In conversation with Ken Ham, a leading creationist and founder of Answers in Genesis (AiG), I was told a story about an interview he did with Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, and a popular atheist. These are his words:

“She said to me ‘Ken, you’re a Christian, right? You and your organization approach research with a Biblical, young-earth view?’ I said ‘Yes, that’s right,’ to which she replied ‘Would you change your mind about God if the evidence led you there?’ I told her I wouldn’t. ‘Aha!’ she said ‘You’re not a scientist!’ I looked at her seriously and said ‘Eugenie you’re an atheist, right?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You base your research and teaching on the idea that there is no God, right?’ ‘Yes’ Then I dropped the bomb. ‘Would you change your mind about God if the evidence led you there?’ There was a long silence, and she never replied. She just moved on to the next topic.”

Most evolutionary scientists refute the idea of ID in the classroom because they believe it insinuates the supernatural, which is untestable. Intelligent Design proponents are quick to disagree. ID stays diligently away from the words “God” or “divine” because they sound too much like Creationism, and ID is already too closely associated with Creationism. In fact, in Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School Board, Judge John E. Jones based much of his ruling on the idea that Intelligent Design is merely a religious idea reclothed to look scientific. This is not the case. ID is a structured hypothesis about the mechanism of natural selection coupled with an intelligent causal agent.

In an article on Intelligent Design and its scientific validity, John West, a former political science professor, writes “While Intelligent Design may have religious implications (just like Darwin’s theory), it does not start from religious premises.” (West 2) However, when Christian parents realize that the science being taught in the classroom is incompatible with their religious beliefs, they also quick to realize that teaching Biblical Creationism in addition to Darwinism will not be possible. That would only add to the problem of partisanship, and soon we would be forced to include a Buddhist view, a Hindi view, and so on. As a result, they turn to Intelligent Design as a scientifically-supported hypothesis. This unfortunate condition has become detrimental to ID. The idea that ID is a cover for religion is patently false. Instead, it is an idea that remedies the problem of origins. Intelligent Design scientists, by and large, were once evolutionists who began to see the great many insurmountable problems facing Evolution by natural selection.

But is Evolution unlikely enough that it needs to be challenged in the classroom, or do the majority of people accept the idea without question? To answer that question, I’ll introduce the data from a Zogby poll taken January 29-31, 2009, on the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birthday. 1,004 people were interviewed on the telephone, and during the interview they were asked this question: “Charles Darwin wrote that when considering the evidence for his theory of evolution, ‘...a fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.’ Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with Darwin’s statement?” Fully three-fourths of the group indicated that they were open to questioning evolution’s validity. Clearly, Darwinism has not swept the masses off their feet. On the subject of genetic mutation, the driving force of progressive evolution, Dr. Jerry Bergman writes “The core mechanism of evolution is the occurrence of mutations. . . Most mutations were at one time thought to be neutral, that is, they have no adverse effects on the organism. It is now known that many or most of these mutations are. . . “very slightly deleterious. . .” (100). This new evidence suggests that organisms would not be able to withstand the rigors of natural selection for as long as is necessary, nor would they be able to foster the many diverse species.

Having Intelligent Design taught in schools will likely be the product of a court decision. Take for example the Dover, Pennsylvania area school board. In October 2004, the Dover school board in voted 6-3 to pass the following resolution: “Students will be made aware of gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of origin including, but not limited to, intelligent design” (Kitzmiller 1). The school read a statement to the students explaining that “Gaps in the Theory exist for which there is no evidence.” A parent, Tammy Kitzmiller, filed suit, claiming the statement was unconstitutional. The district court ruled that the statement was in violation of the First amendment. In Kitzmiller vs. Dover, the ruling suffered from a judge who stereotyped ID as merely Creationism rebranded. In intellectual terms, this is equivalent to claiming someone believes in a flat earth.

Interestingly, many ID scientists are not actively trying to put their theory in schools because they fear over-politicizing the argument. Some, however, are taking a stand in favor of teaching the controversy. In 2002, 52 Ohio scientists (mostly doctorates) signed a statement that said “We affirm that where alternate scientific theories exist in any area of inquiry (such as wave vs. particle theories of light, biological evolution vs. intelligent design, etc.) students should be permitted to learn the evidence for and against them.” That year, Ohio revised the standards of science education so that students in grades 9-10 “grasp an understanding of the historical perspectives, scientific approaches and emerging scientific issues associated with Earth and space sciences” (Ohio 221).

Despite this distinction, there is little or no practical direction for teachers presenting evolution and its problems. It is the burden of the Intelligent Design scientists to supply the high school teachers with the research that shows the evidence against evolution that supports design. Books which discuss the problems facing both theories must be made available and public to the students. Any instructor that is uncomfortable or unwilling to discuss the controversy regarding Darwinism and Intelligent Design must make these books available to the students. Significant publications by doctoral scientists who support ID include The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems and Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome. Furthermore, schools should include this alternate theory in the testing regiments to assure understanding of the problems facing evolution.

As standards change, they will be challenged by people unwilling to allow Darwinism to be questioned. The courts must then do their part in assuring that the schools recognize ID as a legitimate scientific theory and not a rebranding of a religious idea. The authoritarian dictatorship of the evolution majority must end and a legitimate conversation must begin. Colleges and high schools must begin to support open discussion of the alternatives, just as 76% of Americans believe they should.

Works Cited
Bergman, Jerry, Ph.D. “Progressive Evolution or Degeneration.” Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference on Creationism. (2008) 99-110

Center for Science & Culture. Report on 2009 Zogby Poll about Evolution and Academic Freedom. Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute, 2009

Covaleskie, John F. “Three Why’s: Religion and Science in School.” Educational Studies 43 (2008): 7-16.

Darwin. American Museum of Natural History. 2009. 9 March 2009

Ham, Ken. Personal Interview. 1 Jan. 2009.

Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Center. "Intelligent Design Is a Scientific Theory." Opposing Viewpoints: World Religions. Ed. Mike Wilson. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2006. Opposing Viewpoints Resource Center. Gale. University of Akron. 25 Mar. 2009 http://find.galegroup.com.

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard and Lawrence Morgan. “Darwin’s Dilemma: Science in the Public Forum.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. 38.1 (2008): 53-73.

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School Board. No. 04cv2688. United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. 20, Dec. 2005.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Blessed with a curse

I recently read a book by a neurosurgeon. I don't remember the title, the author, or even whether I bought or borrowed it. I just remember it was the memoirs of a neurosurgeon, and it was good. Tonight I took my wife to Canton for a date, and on the way up, we saw a helicopter flying overhead. Patronizing my boyish fascination with choppers and health care, she pondered "Is it a medical helicopter?" I watched it carefully for a few seconds before I confirmed that it was.
On the way back home, we drove by Aultman to see whether a chopper was sitting on the pad. Ironically, as we drove in, a helicopter, probably the same one we had seen earlier, came in for a landing.

It was so big. Ominous and gentle at the same time. I felt a surge of desire, either to fly the chopper or to save the lives of very sick and injured people, I'm not sure which.

As we kept driving, the tone of our conversation turned from generally goofy to philosophical, and I remembered the book about that neurosurgeon. I recalled him saying how he felt about his career. Fate, he thought, had dealt him a rough hand, but he enjoyed the game. There was a dissonance in his lifestyle , almost as if he loved hating what he did. Or maybe he hated loving it. It was a dissonance I could relate to, sort of. I remember being a teenager, having a full-blown career, being engaged, being heavily involved in church, children's ministry, youth group, beside having a "life" as a teen. I remember driving down the road alone sometimes, between responsibilities, feeling sorry for myself about why I couldn't just be a normal teenager.

But I knew the answer to my own question, even if I wouldn't admit it. Because normal teenagers had peer pressure. Normal teens don't have promising careers, lasting relationships, supportive parents, the respect of their elders. Normal teens got drunk on Saturday night and hid it during sunday school, if they showed up at all. Normal teens didn't get to follow their dreams, much less live them.

God doesn't have it in mind to have normal children. Normalcy is not tantamount to holiness. I wonder sometimes if all Christians relate to this concept at one time or another. God blesses us with things we hate, because through it all we learn to accept it, and we do good things in the mean time.

Why do I have to be the one to struggle for seven more years to become something that no one expects of me, all the while being a daddy and having a real, honest-to-goodness family who relies on me? Because God said so. And I will learn to accept it, and do good things in the mean time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This evening was a interesting conglomerate of emotions for me. I spent parts of last evening and this evening bringing my long-lost friend Felix (a.k.a. my Scion that I crashed last winter) home to my brother's place where it will await our attention. Sitting in that ole' thing brought back a flood of feelings. It's incredibly hard to quantify how I feel about that thing. It was just a car. But so much, SO much more. It was actually like a friend.

It was there on my first date, it took us to Friendly's. It was there the evening I said "Will you marry me?" and she replied "OF COURSE!" It was the toaster, the tissue box, the greatest sidekick. It toted my mountain bike to Millersburg to the trail three times a week during the summer, and to Canton every week where it would pick up a few kids who would go home and boast to their brothers and sisters about how they had a ride in Nic's "Element." It has seen me cry, talk to my self, sing till I was hoarse. It heard me ask God "SERIOUSLY!?" more than once. It held a dozen hour-long conversations with grief-stricken friend, a dozen prayer breaks for a lost friend, a dozen coffee breaks (make that several hundred) for a thirsty friend. Felix was there.

I stood on top of it when my camera needed a better vantage point. I sat on the roof when I was getting gas during those lazy summer evenings when all the people getting gas ask you how you're doing. It took me to Indiana and back without a hitch (and with great gas mileage) every month. It saw the tops of the Smokey Mountains with me; without Felix I would have been totally alone. It's been to Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Felix got me into my share of trouble ("Where ya headed in such a hurry, son?"), and right back out of it every once in a while ("Well, I'll just write you a warnin").

I cried on the day I found out Felix was probably gone forever. A handful of my closest friends did, too. Felix was for real. Like the Herbie the Love Bug, I suppose.

I could buy another Scion in a few years. I might even get to liking it after a while. But I will never call it Felix. There can only be one Felix, and for now, he's gone. But there is hope. This summer, with a little elbow grease, and a lotta time, he might hit the highway again.

Here's Felix on the day his career ended:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Change my mind for me

My biology professor is the most abundantly friendly teacher I have had in all my life. She's tough, pulls no punches, and never, never quits smiling. She just expects you to know your stuff.

Last semester, in my naivety I spoke out about the problems that the theory of evolution suffers. I was met with some resistance, but it was short lived, and we went on. A few weeks ago, when Mrs. Rock and I were arranging the details of a school visit that I would be handling, she approached me and said, rather cautiously,

"Can I ask you a personal question?"
"Sure" I said.
"You do realize..." she paused, "you do understand..." another pause, "You do realize that the world really is billions of years old.

I smiled politely, not really sure how to answer such a fallacious question coming from a superior. So I sidestepped it.

"I understand, Mrs. Rock, that there are fundamental problems with the idea of molecules-to-man evolution."

I hadn't answered her question, and she wasn't satisfied.

"But you understand, it really has been proven, I mean look at all the dating methods!"

I wasn't going to dignify a geological question coming from a biologist, and thereby expose my ignorance.

"I'm not a geologist, Mrs. Rock, and frankly, neither are you. All I know about radioactive dating is that they're all based on boatloads of assumptions about the history of the world; a history that was shaped by the ideals of biologists."

I shared an anecdote about rocks of a known 2-digit age that were dated using some modern dating method, and "shown" to be thousands of years old.

"But the biggest problem I have with Darwinism is the idea of the complexity of life originating from a conglomerate of methane, ammonia, hydrogen and water vapor."

And do you know what she said?

"I KNOW! Its incredible! It was a h*** of a roll of the dice!"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Ah words, words, words!

IN MY WORLD of graphic design we do a lot of advertising. We do it often for people who are less than initiated in advertising (Read my last post to see how well I interface with the uninitiated). These same individuals are also less than initiated at many other things, such as aesthetics, and... speech, actually.

Let me back up. Among the Deitsch speaking population, there are always words that get translated badly, whether from Dutch to English or vice versa. A good example of this is the common phrase "Mahs un goodah dag!" or in English "Have a good day!" These don't directly translate. The dutch text becomes "Make it a good day!" and the english text becomes "Hab un goodah dag!" which seems to imply that a good day would need to befall you by chance, or by a roll of the dice, and you would have to catch it and pin it down.

There are hilarious examples of these transliterations. A popular one is as follows: 2 little Amish boys are having a conversation. In English, it might sound like this:

Boy 1: "To get to town, you have to go down the road to the bridge, and turn."
Boy 2: "Oh, I know where the bridge is, my dad used to get water for his horse there!"

Because of word order and some dutch words sounding awfully much like english words ("bridge" in dutch is "brick"), that conversation has been comically rewritten like this:

Boy 1: "For to the town come, you go the road down to the brick, and turn over."
Boy 2: "Oh, I know where the brick is, my dad used to drink his horse there!"

Recently, a fresh new word has come to my office by way of an overzealous Amish man trying out a freshly crafted word: "I like most of de ad, but I chust wanna change some of dis verbage."

We're all fairly certain this man didn't know the meaning of the word "verbiage" which is used to insultingly describe a body of text that is wordy or overly technical. The great thing is, this one customer was not the only man to use this term! 2 customers, but men, both furniture makers, both likely acquainted with each other, have used this word copiously. We all love it, and find cause to use it over and over in a days work.

"Dat was some quality verbage, I sink."

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Getting back at it.

If you'll look closely to the date on the post directly below this one (and do me the favor of not reading said post), you'll note that it was written within a few days of 3 years ago. It wasn't the last post I'd written, though, I had managed to post at some point near the end of 2006. A curious thing happened to cause me to be interested in posting again. A friend, Matthew, WhenElephantsMuse, sent my wife and and I a rather nice christmas letter through which I discovered he had a blog. Cheers, Matt, and thanks for the beautiful pic of the kids! You're a wonderful photographer.

Bottom line is, I'm suddenly struck with the beauty of writing all over again. I haven't written in a long while. Back in the day, when I was young and rather more thoughtful (read: more filled with thought ;-) and philosophical, my musings tended to be rather unwieldy texts.

I'm a bit smarter now, by one semester of college (including an English Comp class, fortunately) and a few years of real life which included getting married and now I'm on the verge of becoming a father. That real life has also included the death of a friend, which lead to a strange, wonderful calling from the Lord to follow Him through College and Medical School.

Hopefully, now, when I write, it will be worth your while, and not so heady, high-societal, or ponderous. That's not to say that it won't be arcane occasionally.


"Bloeks dih net?" My friend asks curiously whether or not it bothers me to see a surgeon's knife slice through human skin. We're standing side by side atop the printing press he runs for a living; I'm dressed in khaki pants and a dress shirt that sharply contrasts with his ink-stained clothes.

"No, it isn't a big deal really," I reply, patiently bearing this question yet again. A dozen uninitiated people ask me this every week, it seems, and after a dozen operations I'm too calloused for my own good. I don't interface well with the uninitiated, just ask anyone. Wonderful, well-meaning people who are genuinely interested in my life all seem to ask the same questions and crack the same stupid jokes.

"Let Nic cut that pie, he needs practice with knives, right?"

"I'm a freshman in college, for crying out loud", I think as I pass a practiced smile in the direction of the jokester. "Don't take me to the bank just yet, man."

"Hey Nic, I better be nice to you cuz I don't wanna end up on your OR table with you having a grudge against me!"

"How many people do you know that operate on their relatives?" I fume.

But folks really do want to see me succeed. Dissidents hardly exist, which is fortunate. Surprising, even.

I was once in the presence of a really accomplished surgeon when someone wisecracked to the whole group "I was kind of frightened when I saw the surgeon walking around with a big, sharp kitchen knife, but finally he set it down so I was OK."

I asked the Dr. afterward "What do you do with that kind of thing? Don't you just get tired of it?"

His reply was a classic understatement. "The way I see it, a person is just trying to show his interest in you, that's all. Yeah, it gets old, but finally you realize, Hey this guy really likes me and wants to tell me so."

You know, I've really had to change my attitude after starting to associate with physicians. What seemed like major annoyances for me start to fade dramatically when a I see the disturbances that plague all physicians.

“Things cannot always go your way. Learn to accept in silence the minor aggravations, cultivate the gift of taciturnity and consume your own smoke with an extra draught of hard work, so that those about you may not be annoyed with the dust and soot of your complaint.” - William Osler, MD

That quote single-handedly changed my life. In hindsight, I realize that I often didn't react well to my circumstances in photography at Carlisle Printing. "Stupid Amish furniture makers with no idea what art was" constantly "plagued" my life, I thought. Now I realize the truth. I could have been more convincing and successful had I dealt with them like a good physician. "Here's a client with an excellent product who needs to sell that product. What's the best way to do that?"

Anyway, enough retrospect. Enough writing, for now. Happy New year all.