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Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search For Common Ground Between God and Evolution Paperback – September 19, 2000
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An act of intellectual daring and spiritual integrity...a refreshing departure fromthe tired polemics of the evolution wars. (Book List, starred review)
About the Author
Kenneth R. Miller, a recipient of numerous awards for outstanding teaching, is a cell biologist, a professor of biology at Brown University, and the coauthor of widely used high school and college biology textbooks. In addition, he has written articles that have appeared in numerous scientific journals and magazines, including Nature, Scientific American, Cell, and Discover. He lives in Rehoboth, Massachussetts.
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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."
Evolution does, however, conflict with many religious claims, including those in the Genesis narrative of the Judeo-Christian bible. It is widely agreed, and I enthusiastically concur, that no one has stated the scientific arguments against creationism and its intelligent design upgrade more effectively than Kenneth Miller. The first half of "Finding Darwin's God" brilliantly summarizes those arguments, and in doing so emphasizes the notion that there ought to be a better way. That is, there ought to be a non-fundamentalist religious viewpoint which is wholly compatible with biological evolution and the rest of science. Miller is determined to discover such a viewpoint and tell us how he did it.
If one simply wants to avoid contradicting science, many paths are open to deistic constructs of the Einsteinian type, where god sets baseline parameters for nature but does not interfere with subsequent events or meddle in individual lives. But Miller isn't about to settle for that. He wants a loving, lovable, traditional, western-style supreme being. No substitutes, please. While reading about his passionate quest for a suitable candidate, I could not avoid the impression that what is presented as Darwin's god could more aptly be called Miller's god. The author finds his breakthrough in quantum mechanics and its assurance that atomic-scale uncertainty is absolutely unresolvable, even in principle. Here, claims Miller, is the foundation of free will and the perfect channel through which god can influence natural events or, perhaps, tweak human destinies. Quantum uncertainty forms a sort of firewall which may, if god so chooses, forever bar us from directly perceiving his influence on Earth. Well, what's wrong with such guesses? Nothing, really, except that like all religious proposals they constitute an arbitrary, speculative overlay on questions which science is quite capable of answering eventually, provided only that accessible answers exist. In the meantime, Miller is equipped as well as anyone alive to understand that without science he has no case, and that the aspects of his case which are intended to transcend science merely abuse it.
I highly recommend this book for two reasons. First, because it is one of the best imaginable primers on the powerful evidence available to counter creationist claims of all flavors. Second, because it is an intriguing example of first-rate rational analysis oddly mixed with inconclusive religious conjecture in the mind of a skilled, intelligent, skeptical scientist.
Miller meets every conceivable argument head-on. As I read the book, I would think ahead and say, "But what about *this*?..." and sure enough, a few pages later he would answer it. I was impressed at the fearlessness with which he took on all the young-Earth creationists, as well as staunch evolutionists like Gould. He deals with such tough questions as...Was man specifically "designed" as the final product of evolution, or was man what happened to evolve? How can true free will and an omnipotent God be possible? And of course, many more hard questions are explored.
The book is well organized, dealing with each camp in the debate one at a time, and thoroughly. The writing is good, and is written so as anyone can understand it.
This book is likely to challenge you wherever you come down on the issue, and it is well worth the read.
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Miller contradicts himself.Read more