Kenneth R. Miller. Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search For Common Ground Between God and Evolution. Cliff Street Books, 1999.
Kenneth Miller’s Home Page.
Criticisms by Arthur Lodge.
SchansBlog 5-part review link.
An Imperfect Union: Darwin, Divinity, and Design. A Science & Spirit article.
A very short William Dembski response article from the Action Research Network.
To conclude, therefore, let no man out of a weak conceit of sobriety, or an ill-applied moderation, think or maintain, that a man can search too far or be too well-studied in the book of God’s word, or in the book of God’s works; divinity or philosophy; but rather let men endeavor an endless progress or proficiency in both. – Francis Bacon, quoted in Origin.
CHAPTER 1: DARWIN’S APPLE
“In no small way, my purpose in writing this book has been to argue that Darwin chose exceptionally well when he selected this quotation.” (xii) “I want to ask a question that most of my colleagues shy away from, and to attack head-on the defenses that many of us have built up in our unwillingness to reconcile the two different answers to the question of ‘Who made us?’ The question is whether or not God and evolution can coexist.” (3)
Darwin’s “one long argument,” went something like this:
1. Domesticated plants and animals show a tremendous range of variation.
2. A Similar range of variation exists in nature among wild species.
3. All living things are engaged in a struggle for existence. (7-8)
However, “people were afraid of the book.” (10) “Evolution, it seemed, was responsible for such evils as theft, murder, drug abuse, prostitution, war, and even adultery…The danger in evolution was that it struck directly at the fundamental assumptions of religion about the relationship between God and man. Evolution threatened the soul itself.” (12) It is “automatic.” (13) “Evolution displaced the Creator from His central position as the primary explanation for every aspect of the living world.” (14) “Darwin provided the first complete, rational basis for rejecting the spiritual and the supernatural…surely there was no longer any room left for religion in the life of the mind.” “For thousands of years, human beings thought of themselves as the children of God. After Darwin, they were the children of ‘genetic chance and environmental necessity.’ ” (15)
But is this indeed the case?
“Is it time to replace existing religions with a scientifically responsible, attractively sentimental, ethically driven Darwinism — a First Church of Charles the Naturalist? Does evolution really nullify all world views that depend upon the spiritual? Does it demand logical agnosticism as the price of scientific consistency? And does it rigorously exclude belief in God? … My answer, in each and every case, is a resounding no. I do not say this, as you will see, because evolution is wrong. Far from it. The reason, as I hope to show, is because evolution is right.” (17)
CHAPTER 2: EDEN’S CHILDREN
“Science is founded on the proposition that everything we think we know about the natural world can, in principle, be rejected if it does not meet the test of observation and experiment.” (21) “Unfortunately, there is a school of thought that rejects the very idea that any theory about the past can be scientific.” “Is there really any scientific way that we can know anything about the past at all?” (22) Miller replies, “We may not be able to witness the past directly, but we can reach out and analyze it for the simple reason that the past left something behind.” (23) “And the method of choice is scientific materialism.” (31) “Evolution is partly the story of how the present is linked to the past, the story of what happened. In this sense, evolution is history.” “Fortunately, as any sane historian would argue, you don’t have to retell all histories in order to get a sense of what history is really like.” (37) “Just as human history reveals a succession of languages, civilizations, and empires, natural history reveals a succession of living organisms that are linked in a stunning pattern of relatedness.” (38)
Skepticism is a cardinal virtual in science. (40)
Miller begins to give examples of this historical scientific materialism through the Toxodon and the Glyptodon. He expounds on the theory, not just on what happened, but how it happened, and then to the testing. “The results of such tests have been known for years; and yes, evolution can generate lots of beneficial mutations — so many, in fact, that we can say that the evolutionary mechanism is not only real, but a downright nuisance.” (49) [Though he says later, “Evolution works, and it emerges as a powerful creative force that shapes the natural world, and can even be put to work in the service of human industry.” (53)]
“I believe that one of the things that bothers people most about evolution is the simplicity of its three-part mechanism. Mutation, variation, and natural selection.” (51) It is “history and mechanism.” “Evolution is as much a fact as anything we know in science.” (53) “Evolutionary theory is not a guess about the nature of life any more than atomic theory is a guess about the nature of matter, or germ theory is pure speculation on the nature of disease. Evolutionary theory is a well-defined, consistent, and productive set of explanations for how evolutionary change takes place.” (54) “The heart of the matter is that evolution is by, definition, a story of origins. This means, however powerful its scientific support, it really does supersede another creation story — in particular, the creation story at the very core of the Judeo-Christian narrative. The conflict is real…What I do not believe is that the conflict is unresolvable.” (55) He ends the chapter saying,
It is high time that we grew up and left the Garden. We are indeed Eden’s children, yet it is time to place Genesis alongside the geocentric myth in the basket of stories that once, in a world of intellectual naivete, made helpful sense. As we walk through the gates, aware of the dazzling richness of the genuine biological world, there might even be a smile on the Creator’s face — that at long last His creatures have learned enough to understand His world as it truly is. (56)
CHAPTER 3: GOD THE CHARLATAN
“When God and science come together, common wisdom is that something has to give. For most people, that something is not the whole of science, but the rather troubling subset of biology called evolution…it claims to have discovered a material, mechanistic reason for our existence…And there’s the problem.” (57) “At its core, evolution threatens the sense of specialness we enjoy in a world where we have come to view ourselves as the centerpiece of creation.” (58)
However, “there just isn’t enough about us that is biologically different from other animals to say that evolution applies to them, but not to us. We have to find another place to draw the line.” (59) “We might, for example accept the general picture that historical geology has given us for the age of the earth…But we would still have to find at least one essential event in the history of life to stand outside these natural processes — one thing that must have been done by the Creator.” (59) “We might draw the line to include a little less science.” (60) “Or we might adopt a more direct and more spectacular strategy. We could reject everything that appears to support evolution in even the slightest respect. That strategy is the topic of this chapter.” (60)
Miller addresses Henry Morris, ICR (Institute for Creation Research), and flood theory suggesting that young-earth creationists “keep themselves carefully aloof from any hands-on contact with genuine evidence.” (62) “These refutations will, when we are finished, beg several much larger questions. Why do these badly flawed attacks on evolution persist? Why do they have so much appeal? Why (with apologies to country singer Johnnie Lee) are these folks looking for God in all the wrong places? I believe it has very little to do with the science of evolution, and everything to do with how that science is misapplied to the larger questions of human existence.” (63)
Going through the age of the rocks, and a census of the nuclides, “the consistency of the data drawn from each of these samples is nothing short of stunning. When it comes to the geological age of our planet, true controversy is a thing of the past, and not because of evolutionary dogma. Rather, it is the concordant music of the data itself that overwhelms claims to the contrary.” (76)
“What saddens me is the view of the Creator that their intellectual contortions force them to hold. In order to defend God against the challenge they see from evolution, they have had to make Him into a schemer, a trickster, even a charlatan. Their version of God is one who intentionally plants misleading clues beneath our feet and in the heavens themselves. Their version of God is one who has filled the universe with so much bogus evidence that the tools of science can give us nothing more than a phony version of reality. In other words, their God has negated science by rigging the universe with fiction and deception. To embrace that God, we must reject science and worship deception itself.” (80)
CHAPTER 4: GOD THE MAGICIAN
“…the intellectual need to twist every scientific observation into a creationist framework means that no science is safe.” (81)
Miller then addresses various concepts of evolution including “phyletic gradualism” (84) and “punctuated equilibrium.” (84) and illustrates how their weaknesses give leverage to people like Phillip Johnson in their arguments so that “maybe, just maybe, Darwinian evolution is flat-out wrong!” (90) Enter Intelligent Design. “Such a designer can by definition, create anything.” (92) “The matter is that, if Johnson, is right, then we should apply the explanation of design to every event in the natural history of the planet. It’s not logically tenable to allow that evolution could have produced some species but not others; therefore, the explanation of design must be invoked for the origin of every species. The modern advocates of this idea seem to have forgotten that at one time this is exactly what biologists did. Until, of course, it became impossible to take seriously.” (93)
Using the illustration of the Galapagos findings, and elephants, Miller suggests that intelligent design is inadequate at offering a logical explanation, and he also lays out how the designer must have done it in order to match the evidence; a process that seems not so intelligent.
“Over and over again, the imposition of intelligent design on the facts of natural history requires us to imagine a designer who creates successive forms that mimic evolution. Magicians are master illusionists, and if this magical designer had anything in mind, it must have been to cast the illusion of evolution and nothing else.” (99)
“New species appear constantly throughout the fossil record. If they really are the products of intelligent design, then how would such new species appear?” (99) “Our bodies do not display intelligent design so much as they reveal the evidence of evolutionary ancestry. Human embryos, for example, form a yolk sac during the early stages of development…a completely empty one.” (100-1)
“These signs of history are the telltale marks of evolution, and all organisms have them. Because evolution can work only on the organisms, structures, and genes that already exist, it seldom finds the perfect solution for any problem. Instead, evolution tinkers, improvises, and cobbles together new organs out of old parts. A true designer would face no such problems, and could produce genuinely new structures, molecules, and organs whenever needed. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t seem to work that way.” (101)
“We would also have to attribute every plague, pestilence, and parasite to the intentional actions of our master designer…Finally, whatever one’s views of such a designer’s motivation, there is one conclusion that drops cleanly out of the data. He was incompetent…Nothing he designs is able to make it over the long term. … What is one to make of this? Quite simply, that the advocates of design are faced with a logical contradiction. They would like to claim that the perfection of design seen in living organisms cannot possibly have been achieved by a random, undirected process like evolution, and that an intelligent agent is required to account for such perfection. But when one looks at the record, the products of this intelligent design consistently fail to survive.” (102)
Regarding MICRO vs. MACRO, “what principles of biochemistry or molecular biology would prevent it (micro) from redesigning dozens or hundreds of genes over a few weeks or months to produce a distinctly new species?” (108)
Called the “argument from personal incredulity,” “the only compelling case they can make against evolutionary theory is that the mountain of historical and experimental evidence supporting evolution hasn’t yet convinced them.” (111) In the end, Miller suggests that Johnson’s approach is not a “scientific case at all, but a legal brief.” (123) All Johnson needs to do is be persuasive about Darwin’s weaknesses (that evolution doesn’t reach “beyond a reasonable doubt”), and that there just might be an alternative, e.g. intelligent design. Miller addresses those arguments by seeing “whether they are grounded in scientific fact.” (124) “More important, the implication that we should put Darwin on trial overlooks the fact that Darwinism has always been on trial within the scientific community.” (125) “The most effective scientist, unlike an effective attorney, is not the one who makes the best case for his side of a scientific issue. Rather, it is the one who finds the best way of testing every relevant idea against the objective reality of nature.” (126)
“What I find particularly distressing is that these anti-evolutionists fail to see the damage they have done philosophically and theologically by invoking design as a universal alternative to evolution.” (126) “Intelligent design does a terrible disservice to God by casting him as a magician who periodically creates and creates and then creates again throughout the geologic ages…God is not a magician who works cheap tricks. Rather, His magic lies in the fabric of the universe itself.” (128)
CHAPTER 5: GOD THE MECHANIC
Miller takes on Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, and the concept of Irreducible Complexity. Miller points out that Behe’s quoting of William Paley’s Natural Theology invokes a problem, primarily that Paley’s argument from design was well known to Darwin, and not only did Darwin consider it, but he answered it in The Origin. (135) In addition, Richard Dawkins took Paley’s challenge head on in The Blind Watchmaker.
“Remember Behe’s statement that ‘any precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional’? Well, there’s just no other word for it — that statement is wrong.” (139) “What we actually see among cilia and flagella in nature is something entirely consistent with Darwin’s call for numerous gradations from the simple to the complex.” (143)
“If you believed Michael Behe’s assertion that biochemical machines were irreducibly complex, you might never have bothered to check; and this is the real scientific danger of his ideas” (149) Partly modified forelimbs have very useful functions as gliding appendages, and half a protein machine is also very useful. “This shows, once again, that the notion of irreducible complexity is nonsense. Evolution assembles complex biochemical machines,…from smaller working assemblies that are adapted to fit novel functions. The multiple parts of complex biochemical machines are themselves assembled from smaller, working machines developed by natural selection.” (150) It is called “evolution by molecular tinkering” which states “that evolution does not produce novelties from scratch: it works on what already exists” by “modifying existing structures.” (151) Deconstructing the blood clotting system, Miller illustrates how even that “current system did not evolve all at once. Like all biochemical systems, it evolved from genes and proteins that originally served different purposes.” (157) And that “far from being a problem for evolution, blood clotting…is a remarkable demonstration of the way in which evolution duplicates and then remodels existing genes to produce novel functions.” (160)
“If God the mechanic did all this marvelous work, then he must have done it at a particular time in natural history — and there’s the problem.” (161)
“By and large, the critics of evolution are not cynical opportunists. They aren’t stupid, and they certainly understand how strong the scientific evidence is against them. So, why do they oppose evolution with such passion and persistence? I think I know, and as we shall see in the next chapter, many of my scientific colleagues, so baffled at the strength and depth of anti-evolution feelings in the U.S., would be surprised to discover that they are themselves a large part of the reason why.” (164)
CHAPTER 6: THE GODS OF DISBELIEF
“…evolution works. It works as a continuing process, and it works as a historical framework that explains both present and past.” (165)
“…the National Academy failed to address — and maybe even to understand — the two most important sources of creationism’s enduring appeal. The first, not surprisingly, is religion itself. Religion’s power to motivate and inspire remains undiminished, even in these modern times. The second is the reflexive hostility of so many within the scientific community to the goals, the achievements, and most especially to the culture of religion itself…acceptance of evolution — or any other scientific idea — doesn’t turn on the logical weight of carefully considered scientific issues. It hinges instead on the complete effect that acceptance of an idea, a world view, a scientific principle, has on their own lives and their view of life itself. … Less than half of the U.S. public believes that humans evolved from an earlier species. The reason, I would argue, is not because they aren’t aware of strength of [sic] the scientific evidence behind it. Instead, it is because of a well-founded belief that the concept of evolution is used routinely, in the intellectual sense, to justify and advance a philosophical worldview that they regard as hostile and even alien to their lives and values.” (166-7)
“So, how does [evolution] threaten religion? In a strict and scientific sense, it doesn’t. And I find it puzzling and disappointing that so many would have pinned their religious hopes on the inability of science to explain the natural world. In fact, I will argue later than an accurate and complete understanding of the world, even in purely material terms, should deepen and strengthen the faith of any religious person.” (169) Even the National Academy of Sciences clearly endorses the view that science and religion need not be in conflict:
Religions and science answer different questions about the world. Whether there is a purpose to the universe or a purpose for human existence are not questions for science.
“…it is important to point out that science and religion, in many respects, address quite different issues about the nature of reality.” (169) Yet people like Richard Dawkins and William Provine seem to use evolution to “craft it into an anti-religious weapon…” (172)
“…the appeal of creationism is emotional, not scientific.” (173)
“The truth is that evolution, however persuasive, is a biological theory fashioned to explain descent with modification. By what logic could anyone pretend that principles found to apply biological systems must also apply to social organizations, societies, or nations?” (175) Next up is Daniel Dennett (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea) whose views “of evolution leave no room for God, except as a psychological curiosity to be studied and explained.” (179) Next up is Edward O. Wilson (On Human Nature) who “concludes that the religious impulse is a universal aspect of human nature,” (181) but, “consequently…are like other human institutions in that they evolve in directions that enhance the welfare of the practitioners.” (182) “Without saying so directly, they have embraced a brand of materialism that excludes from serious consideration any source of knowledge other than science.” (185) “To Richard Lewontin (a Harvard geneticist) science is in the midst of a ‘struggle for possession of public consciousness between material and mystical explanations of the world,’ a struggle against ignorance and spirituality that it cannot afford to lose.” (186)
“…the real danger of evolutionary biology to Christianity is not at all what most scientists might suspect. It is not that evolution’s version of natural history threatens to unseat the central Biblical myths of unitary creation and the Flood. Rather, it is the chilling prospect that evolution might succeed in convincing humanity of the fundamental purposeless of life. Without purpose to the universe, there is no meaning, there are no absolutes, and there is no reason for existence.” (187) “…the real risk is that evolution tells people that God is dead.” (189)
However, “what if the regularities of nature were fashioned in a way that they themselves allowed for the divine? What if the logical connections he makes between materialism and atheism are flawed? What if the very foundations that seem to lock evolution and religion into conflict were built upon suspect ground? In other words, what if the gods of disbelief were false?” (191)
CHAPTER 7: BEYOND MATERIALISM
“We live in a world where the real dangers come not from demons and spirits, but from the awful consequences of our own excesses as a species.” (193)
“scientific materialism rules out the influence of the divine from a particular phenomenon by the application of what we might call ‘deterministic reductionism.’ … The most important conclusion from the success of scientific materialism was philosophical as much as it was scientific. It had shown us that nature was organized in a systematic, logical way.” (195)
Tackling Deism, “the idea that nature was a complete, functional, self-sufficient system…as proof of the wisdom and skill and care of that great architect,” Miller suggests that “its first great flaw was religious,” (the three leading Western religions rejecting such a passive God) and its second “may well have been scientific.” (deism is satisfying only when we visualize a static, controlled, finished creation, a mechanism of precise laws and well-kept orbits, a view that is now gone forever) “…the real problem with deism was the synergy between itself and the physical sciences.” (196-7)
Here Miller explains Werner Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle,” saying about the discovery of the quantum, “at its very core, in the midst of the ultimate constituents of matter and energy, the predictable causality that once formed the heart of classical physics breaks down.” (201) It is important to note, however, that “the uncertainties inherent to quantum theory do not arise because of gaps in our knowledge or understanding. …Second, there is a pattern to these uncertainties, and those patterns account for the fact that the universe seems pretty orderly to us.” (201)
“…any machine, even a natural one, that is influenced by quantum phenomena is inherently unpredictable. Quantum theory makes it possible to construct, according well-understood principles of physical law, a genuine machine whose actions are indeterminate…The unpredictability of nature means that the clockwork assumptions of extreme materialism — namely, that knowing past history and mechanism relegates all events in the future to a predictable, rule-based playing out of chemistry and physics — are simply wrong. Wrong at their core, wrong in implications, and most especially wrong in terms of the philosophy that they support.” (203) “God’s universe is not locked in to a determinate future, and neither are we.” (204) Peering into DNA and chemical processes, Miller states, “This means that life is built around a chemistry that provides an amplifying mechanism for quantum events. …Mutations, which provide the raw material of genetic variation, are just as unpredictable as a single photon passing through a diffraction slit. …the lesson is clear — the fact that mutation and variation are inherently unpredictable means that the course of evolution is too. In other words, evolutionary history can turn on a very, very small dime — the quantum state of a single subatomic particle.” (207)
“Quantum physics tells us that absolute knowledge, complete understanding, a total grasp of universal reality, will never be ours.” (203) “This also means that absolute materialism, a view that control and predictability and ultimate explanation are possible, breaks down in a way that is biologically significant.” (209)
What does all this mean? “…science’s ultimate goal, complete knowledge, will never — indeed, can never — be realized for even the smallest of nature’s individual parts.” (210) “…we still couldn’t predict which would have been the winners and which the losers in the evolutionary sweepstakes. We couldn’t have known because the results of that ancient lottery were, to some extent, a matter of chance.” (211) “Remarkably, what the critics of evolution consistently fail to see is that the very indeterminacy they misconstrue as randomness has to be, by any definition, a key feature of the mind of God. Remember, there is one (and only one alternative to unpredictability — and that alternative is a strict, predictable determinism. …Caught between these two alternatives, they fail to see that the one more consistent with their religious beliefs is actually the mainstream scientific view linking evolution with the quantum reality of the physical sciences.” (213)
Miller over the next several pages has some theological musings, concluding, “in plain and simple terms,…ordinary processes, rooted in the genuine materialism of science, ought to be sufficient to allow for God’s work — yesterday, today, and tomorrow,” (218) and that “absolute materialism does not triumph because it cannot fully explain the nature of reality.” And this “could be the clue that allows us to bind everything, including evolution, into a worldview in which science and religion are partners, not rivals, in extending human understanding a step beyond the bounds of mere materialism.” (219)
CHAPTER 8: THE ROAD BACK HOME
“Ironically, when I have publicly advanced the idea that God is compatible with evolution, I find that my agnostic and atheistic colleagues are generally comfortable with such ideas, but many believers are dumbfounded.” (220) Here, Miller lays out the three great Western religions core shared beliefs:
- The first common belief is the primacy of God in the universe.
- Second, we exist as the direct result of God’s will.
- Third, God has revealed Himself to us.
“One of the most remarkable findings of cosmological science is that the universe did have a beginning, and a spectacular beginning at that.” (225) “This does not prove that the ultimate beginning must be attributed to the divine, but neither does it provide any scientific basis for ruling God out.” (226)
“It almost seems, not to put too fine an edge on it, that the details of the physical universe have been chosen in such a way as to make life possible…known as the ‘anthropic principle’, the physical constants of the universe in which we live have to be favorable to human life.” (228)
Addressing the real problem of harmonizing materialistic chance and God’s intentional creation, Miller asks about God’s “rigging” of the universe and suggests that “a different view, one widely held by Western religions, is that chance events are genuine because the physical world has an existence independent of God’s will…Chance is not only consistent with the idea of God, it is the only way in which a truly independent physical reality can exist.” (234-5)
“History itself is an unpredictable process…The question for us now is whether the inherent unpredictability of history should lead any person to conclude that God could not have used that historical process to produce the world in which we live today. I submit that the answer is no, that the ebb and flow of human history is entirely consistent with the Western conception of God.” (237) “Evolution is not rigged, and religious belief does not require one to postulate a God who fixes the game…The freedom to act and choose enjoyed by each individual in the Western religious tradition requires that God allow the future of His creation to be left open…the outcome of evolution is not predictable, and as a result, our freedom to act as independent beings is preserved…Given evolution’s ability to adapt, to innovate, to test, and to experiment, sooner or later it would have given the Creator exactly what He was looking for — a creature who, like us, could know Him and love Him, could perceive the heavens and dream of the stars, a creature who would eventually discover the extraordinary process of evolution that filled His earth with so much life.” (238-9) “This does not mean…that God cannot or does not act in the world. It simply means that He is wise enough to act in ways that preserve our own freedom, allowing us to reap the rewards and consequences of our own free will.” (241) “A God who presides over an evolutionary process is not an impotent, passive observer. Rather, He is one whose genius fashioned a fruitful world in which the process of continuing creation is woven into the fabric of matter itself.” (243)
Under the heading No More Mr. Nice Guy, Miller tackles a brief theology: “Of all the concerns expressed by Christians with respect to evolution, the strangest, the least logical, the most bizarre is the idea that evolution is too cruel to be compatible with their notion of a loving God.” (245) “…anyone who believes that evolution introduced the idea of systematic cruelty to human nature is likely overlooking many acts of biblical cruelty, especially God’s killing of the Egyptian firstborns, Herod’s murder of the innocents, or the complete and intentional destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.” (246)
Darwin’s work provides an answer, “something that baffled Darwin himself — altruism.” (246) “Shouldn’t self-interest dictate, in every case, that these altruists, these brave individuals, would be better off ignoring their fellows and looking out for themselves? Doesn’t evolution say that the only thing that matters is looking out for number one? As it turns out, it doesn’t.” (247) “Darwinian evolution can produce cooperation and care just as surely as conflict and competition. The care and self-sacrifice seen in animal families are not exceptions to evolution — rather, they are the straightforward results of natural selection acting to favor instinctive altruism. Under the right circumstances, nice guys really do finish first.” (248)
Regarding the objection that “My God wouldn’t have done things that way,” (249) Miller responds, “We cannot know everything God had in mind, but we can know this about beliefs of God All of the Western monotheistic religions maintain that God brought the universe into being, that He intended to create creatures deserving of a soul, and that He wished that universe to be a place in which those creatures had a truly free choice between good and evil, between God and darkness. Given those theological basics, let’s see where we can go.” (249)
“No question about it — our origins as individuals come entirely from the materials of life. The Creator fashioned a world in which matter became the basis of life.” (250) However, he faced a practical problem “How should the matter of this physical world behave, what rules should it follow?”
“The only way He could avoid His creatures’ eventual discovery of their own determinant clockwork would be to limit their ability to question, learn, and discover — something that He clearly would not want to do if He wanted these creatures to be free to choose Him or to reject Him.” (250-1) “His solution was to fashion a material universe in which the conditions of precise determinism do not apply.” (251) “…if there is a God, consider what a master stroke quantum indeterminacy was. To create an orderly material world that didn’t require constant intervention, the Creator had to make things obey defined laws. But if those laws were to run all the way down to the building blocks of matter, they would also have denied free will. They would have made it possible for His creatures (eventually) to figure out that all past events and all future ones could be inferred from a single reading of the state of the physical world at any given time. Remarkably, what quantum indeterminacy does is to deny us the possibility of that ever happening. … Instead, we are inextricably locked into the present, with our thoughts, words, and deeds helping to construct the future, a future that remains open to our own choices, to a world of possibilities.” (251)
“Seen in this way, evolution was much more than an indirect pathway to get to you and me. By choosing evolution as His way to fashion the living world, He emphasized our material nature and our unity with other forms of life. He made the world today contingent upon the events of the past. He made our choices matter, our actions genuine, our lives important. In the final analysis, He used evolution as the tool to set us free.” (253)
“As as scientist, I know very well that the earth is billions of years old and that the appearance of living organisms was not sudden, but gradual. As a Christian, I believe that Genesis is a true account of the way in which God’s relationship with the world was formed. And as a human being, I find value in both descriptions.” (257) “To be sure, genuine faith requires from its adherents a trust in God, but it also demands a confidence in the power of the human mind to investigate, explore, and understand the evolving nature of God’s world.” (259)
CHAPTER 9: FINDING DARWIN’S GOD
Here Miller addresses the “god of the gaps” theory referencing John Horgan’s The End of Science in which he asserts that “science is running out of problems to solve.” (263) However, “Evolution really does explain the very things its critics say it does not,” (264) and even more importantly, “their favorite gaps are filling up, and the historical record of evolution becomes more compelling with each passing season.” (265)
And here’s the real problem…
“If a lack of scientific explanation is proof of God’s existence, the counterlogic is unimpeachable: a successful scientific explanation is an argument against God. … In other words, they show the proponents of atheism exactly how to disprove the existence of God — show that evolution works, and it’s time to tear down the temple.” (266)
“There is neither logical nor theological basis for excluding God’s use of natural processes to originate species, ourselves included. There is therefore no reason for believers to draw a line in the sand between God and Darwin. … I suggest that if God is real, we should be able to find Him somewhere else — in the bright light of human knowledge, spiritual and scientific.” (267)
“True knowledge comes only from a combination of faith and reason. … What science cannot do is to assign either meaning or purpose to the world it explores.” (267) “Neither the self-sufficiency of nature nor the reality of evil in the world mean God is absent. To a religious person, both signify something quite different — the strength of God’s love and the reality of our freedom as His creatures. … Questions about good and evil, about the meaning and purpose of existence, the sorts of things that have busied philosophers since ancient times, have no place in science, because they cannot be addressed by the scientific method.” (269)
“My point is that there is no religious reason, none at all, for drawing a line in the sand at the origin of life. The trend of science is to discover and to explain, and it would be foolish to pretend that religious faith must be predicated on the inability of science to cross such a line. Evolution, after all, does not require that life must have originated from naturalistic causes — only that its biological history is driven by the same natural forces we observe every day in the world around us.” (276)
“I believe much of the problem lies with atheists in the scientific community who routinely enlist the material findings of evolutionary biology in support their own philosophical pronouncements.” (277)
“That evolution helped to create our capacities for both faith and science is undeniable. To maintain that either is thereby invalidated fails the test of logic.” (284)
“Darwin lifted the curtain that allowed us to see the world as it really is. And to any person of faith, this should mean that Charles Darwin ultimately brought us closer to an understanding of God.” (286)
“It is often said that a Darwinian universe is one in which the random collisions of particles govern all events and therefore the world is without meaning. I disagree. A world without meaning would be one in which a Deity pulled the string of every human puppet, and every material particle as well… Authentic love requires freedom, not manipulation.” (289)
“The common view that religion must tiptoe around the findings of evolutionary biology is simply and plainly wrong.” (289)
There is grandeur in this view of life; with its several powers having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most wonderful and most beautiful have been, and are being evolved. — Darwin, Origin.
The closing line: “What kind of God do I believe in? The answer is in those words. I believe in Darwin’s God.”
— VIA —
Well written, and very enjoyable, both in prose and in logic. I had a couple concerns as Miller seemed to venture into an area that he at first criticized; that you cannot draw metaphysical philosophies from mere physical reality, which he seemed to do in the section discussing quantum theory. From a pure scientific standpoint, we may understand it as indeterminacy right now, but perhaps we’ll discover something deeper and more profound in 20 years, especially with the emergence of string theory? But this is a minor point.
Even if science were capable of taking us past quantum theory, and past string theory, what would we find there? What this should teach us is that we ultimately find what we’re looking for. For the naturalist, we find logic and explanation. For the theist, we find God. I sometimes wonder if all this debate tells us less about objective reality than it does about our personal biases and convictions. Perhaps both? Perhaps. But then that simply begs the next question, What does that tell us about reality?
Thanks to Miller for his contribution to the conversation. I truly enjoyed the read, and will recommend it without reservation to those seeking a full engagement with the multi-faceted issue.