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Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution Hardcover – October 20, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Though he takes a different tack than Wyller (above), Miller tries to draw a straight line between two apparently opposing ideas: the theory of evolution and belief in a creator. In a more humanistic account than Wyller's, Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University, explains the difference between evolution as validated scientific fact and as an evolving theory. He illustrates his contentions with examples from astronomy, geology, physics and molecular biology, confronting the illogic of creationists with persuasive reasons based on the known physical properties of the universe and the demonstrable effects of time on the radioactivity of various elements. Then standing firmly on Darwinian ground, he turns to take on, with equal vigor, his outspoken colleagues in science who espouse a materialistic, agnostic or atheistic vision of reality. Along the way, he addresses such important questions as free will in a planned universe. Miller is particularly incisive when he discusses the emotional reasons why many people oppose evolution and the scientific community's befuddled, often hostile, reaction to sincere religious belief. Throughout, he displays an impressive fairness, which he communicates in friendly, conversational prose. This is a book that will stir readers of both science and theology, perhaps satisfying neither, but challenging both to open their minds. Illustrations. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Scientific American
Miller, professor of biology at Brown University, believes firmly in evolution. He also believes in God-a belief not widely shared among scientists. Here he sets out to offer thoughts on how to reconcile the conflict many people see between the two positions. Evolution, he says, is a story of origins; so too is the Judeo-Christian creation story. "The conflict between these two versions of our history is real, and I do not doubt for a second that it needs to be addressed. What I do not believe is that the conflict is unresolvable." Laying out the positions with care and clarity, he offers his resolution: "As more than one scientist has said, the truly remarkable thing about the world is that it actually does make sense. The parts fit, the molecules interact, the darn thing works. To people of faith, what evolution says is that nature is complete. God fashioned a material world in which truly free, truly independent beings could evolve."
EDITORS OF SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Top customer reviews
atheistic evolution. Right? Wrong. Ever since the theory of evolution was first
postulated, there have been quite a number of thinkers who accepted theistic
evolution; even the "co-author" of the theory of evolution - Alfred Russell
Wallace - embraced the notion that accepting evolution is compatible with
Enter Kenneth Miller, who is both a committed Catholic and committed
evolutionist. And, not suprisingly, he has a bone to pick with folks from
opposing "camps" (one might say "extremes".) First, he has a serious bone to
pick with those who champion the theory of intelligent design, which suggests
that evolution is a flawed theory, and that a designer is the only thing capable
of explaining evidence of design in nature. On the other side, Miller is
dissatisfied with those who too often equate evolution with atheism and too
often conflate METHODOLOGICAL naturalism with naturalism AS A WAY OF LIFE.
The first half of the book endeavors to show the first group - ID - wrong. And a masterful job Miller does. In fact, Miller's explanations of evolution and the evidence found for it in nature is so sparkling and lively that it parallels two contemporaries: Dawkins and Gould. Againts the charge that evolution is not borne out in the fossil record, Miller brilliantly paints pictures of transitional forms found in the last 50 years. Against charges that evolution cannot add productive changes to the genome, Miller reminds us that we see it
every day in that most unfortunate of viruses - HIV (among other, more cheery, examples.) And Miller tears up irreducible complexity, demonstrating where Behe
has been proved wrong over and over and over.
But does Miller's denial of creationism mean that he must reject his Catholic faith? Miller does not see it that way. Here, he is on more philosophical territory, and it is here that I find his arguments a bit less convincing (but certainly plausible). Miller, for instance, is quite taken with the "fine tuning" or, antrhopic, argument, suggesting that it is either a too remarkable coincidence or a deliberate set-up by a creator. ,Of course, as Daniel Dennett (quoted in this book) says, anyone who buys a lottery ticket is convinced that it was fate, destiny, or meant-to-be, rather than random "luck." This is not an iron-clad retort to Miller's postulation but it is to say that the his idea doesn't rule out, in any way, the idea that God has nothing to do with it.
More suprising, and perhaps, troubling, is that Miller not only believes in God, but in a very specific Christian God - a God who is actively involved in things, capable of miracles, and has certain...personality traits. It is hard to say on the one hand that God set the world a-turnin' and set evoluiton up and, at the same time, is more than the deistic first cause. Of course, one can say that God steps in and 'steers' evolution, but that leads to the odd "recognition" that, if this be so, around 97% of God's animal creation was not good enough in design (compared with the other 3%, to stick around. In other word, God becomes "the cosmic tinkerer." Not very persuasive, I imagine, to a lot of folks.
One of the most interesting things that Miller subtley points out, however, is the idea that it is precisely those, like Dawkins, who think they are improving public understanding of evolution that may be inadvertently doing it the biggest disservice. As the public is seeing it, evolution is constantly being equated to PHILOSOPHICAL NATURALISM (rather than naturalism in METHODOLOGY), and to atheism. It's loudest champions are advocating equal parts evolution and equal parts atheism. Miller rightly points out that evolultion is certainly compatible with belief in a higher power, and one only wishes - even an atheist like myself - that more people understood that evolution and atheism are not a package deal.
It can also not be stressed enough how good a spokesperson for evolution Miller is. Always respectful, even in disagreement, Miller uses creative analogies, colorful examples, and solid reasoning to systematically work through the arguments of those he disagrees with - particularly champions of intelligent design. I hope that Miller becomes a very visible spokesperson for evolution against creationism in teh same way that Dawkins and Gould have/had.
I reccomend this book without reservation to anyone interested in evolution, religion, and ways to reconcile them genuinely (rather than the namby-pamby approach postulated by Gould.) Also, As a companion, I would also reccomend Michael Ruse's "Can a Darwinian be a Christian."
Miller is a sincere Christian who simply refuses to go down the road of Intelligent Design. And he does not do this naively, since he is an accomplished cellular biologist himself. In its stead, he offers a view of religion that is consistent with the findings of science, and consistent with, as he argues, the future findings of science. After the machinations of Johnson, Behe, and others to predict the inevitable failure of science to explain life, this is indeed a book that breaks the mold and adds something new to the argument (or perhaps not new, but a point of view that has not received much press recently).
In the first half or so of the book, Miller offers vigorous arguments against three creationists/intelligent designists-Morris, Johnson, and Behe. His critique is well-informed and articulate. I am no biologist, so my assessments are far less informed that Miller's, but it seemed rather clear to me that Miller's criticisms of Morris and Johnson were devastating. Having read Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" I did note that Miller didn't take on each of Behe's examples directly, but he does convincingly show that examples of what might seem initially to be "irreducibly complex" systems, to use Behe's term, can be explained by plausible evolutionary mechanisms, and he does note that at least one of Behe's examples was explained in the very year of the publication of Behe's book.
The second half of the book consists of Miller's argument that in fact religion and science are not incompatible. The arguments here are indeed less targeted and somewhat more vague, but they are for the most part reasonable. I think much could be added to his argument, as one would expect from a theist who is in a real sense breaking new ground-accepting science unconditionally and exploring the relation of religion to science.
A couple of his points fall flat in my opinion, but perhaps not a fault of Miller, since I am reviewing him after nine years of active science. He seems to be rather convinced of the anthropic or fine-tuning argument, that the various constants of our universe are fine-tuned to the evolution of life. Recently physicists, from various perspectives, have considered seriously the possibility of a multiverse-that our universe is simply one of many. The fine-tuning argument depends on the premise that our universe is unique. So long as the question is unanswered on the issue the fine-tuning argument needs to wait. His argument from the congruency of the religious story of unique creation and the scientific story of the unique "big bang" also needs to be set aside for the moment, since my understanding (which is again not that of a physicist) is that the story is still out as to whether the big bang was unique, or whether we can see scientifically before this event.
But there are many insights that remain unscathed in Miller's discussion. One is, and I think he's right, that much of the issue of religion vs. science arises out of a nineteenth century conception of science as supporting complete determinism, which since has been negated by quantum physics.
In all, I think Miller's attitude towards the issue of religion and science is the right one, and I'll be looking actively for books that emulate it.
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Miller contradicts himself.Read more