Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Review: Finding Darwin's God

By Ivy-League biology professor Kenneth R. Miller, and subtitled "A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution."

Miller joins a long line of scientist-philosophers who play mental hopscotch in their effort to connect science and ultimate meaning using mere words. Like all the rest, he fails miserably, at least when judged as a scientific work. (By the standards of poetic value, on the other hand, his work is just as profound as you like it!)

Miller devotes the first half of the book to providing a detailed justification of evolution by way of composting a bunch of creationist straw men. Miller defines evolution quite well. In the second half of the book, he trashes various claims that evolution challenges the existence or relevance of God. Curiously, Miller never gives a significant picture of what he means by God, other than to say that God is "Darwin's God." Darwin's God is your run-of-the-mill the Judeo-Christian Father-God, creator of the universe etc, but also the creator (and facilitator?) of evolution as the means of bringing humanity into His [sic (sick, right?)] image.

Miller reaches far beyond his area of expertise (and beyond the power of semantics) when he glibly borrows the popular interpretation of quantum mechanics as proof that some parts of reality are indeterminate. Actually, quantum mechanics has nothing to say on the topic of ultimate determinism -- at most, quantum mechanics shows that the quantum model fails to explain some experimental observations with anything better than stochastic models.

I'll give him some credit: Miller may provide some relief to committed fundamentalist Christians whose knowledge of biology causes them to fear for the integrity of their beliefs, and for their souls, should doubts overcome them.

Miller deserves one other little piece of credit: He is aware of a cute little argument that many of us may have epiphanized during a hearty breakfast of eggs and ketchup back in early childhood:
The concept of purpose, my colleagues would be quick to remind me, stands outside of science. I agree. But, if it does, then so does its exact opposite, that the human species has no purpose ...
This argument can take many forms. To explain why I'm neither a believer nor an athiest nor an agnostic, consider this: God sits far beyond the power of verbal description. Then, regardless of whether God exists, God also sits far beyond the power of verbal denial, and also beyond the even-handed verbal analysis of agnosticism. I shall now speak in tongues.

Miller.

Miller Miller.

Miller Hiller Biller Filler Schiller Killer Tiller Chiller.

1 Comments:

Anonymous goodbadi said...

A highlight: "To explain why I'm neither a believer nor an athiest nor an agnostic, consider this: God sits far beyond the power of verbal description. Then, regardless of whether God exists, God also sits far beyond the power of verbal denial, and also beyond the even-handed verbal analysis of agnosticism."

4:52 PM  

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