I don't regard Christians like Ken Miller and molecular biology researcher Terry Gray as creationists (though Gray proudly wears the title), since they have no problem acknowledging either the basic fact of species evolution or its apparently mechanistic basis. Both have written articles criticizing Intelligent Design Theory as scientifically vacuous as well as philosophically absurd. To both, it seems obvious that it's futile to deny the facts they literally see daily in the lab out of some misguided notion of religious guilt. Are they merely adept at compartmentalization, allowing them to hold contradictory views at their convenience? Maybe, but then I guess we all are.
I was fascinated by "Finding Darwin's God," and I appreciated the logic of Miller's argument even though I disagree with it. He is sharp enough to make the pompous pronouncements of Dawkins, Dennett, and Pinker seem laughable in their presumption, even to a reader like me who agrees with the arch-atheists. I understand his point that quantum mechanics is the limit of scientific certainty, thus setting a border beyond which all is statistical inference. Since the advent of quantum uncertainty, we can no longer believe in the deterministic Newtonian universe, and that goes for atheists as well as believers.
Miller doesn't think evolution is God's way of creating, since the haphazard history of life on Earth is hardly a testament to a guiding wisdom or intelligent intervener. The Darwinian mechanism is simply the only way we have freedom, exactly what we'd expect to see in a universe where we were not expected.
That's where Miller and I part ways. I admire the way he takes great pains to distance himself from 'theistic evolutionists,' since he won't ascribe intention to the admittedly hit-or-miss history of life on earth. I also respect his forthright denial that he could believe in a God who destroyed 99% of all the species He supposedly created, which is far superior to the cynical He-must-have-had-His-reasons attitude typical of creationists.
However, he does believe that God revealed Himself to the faithful when they had sufficiently evolved for the knowledge. I suppose Miller has to rationalize his beliefs in the most consistent manner, and I don't think there's a God scenario out there to which I'd be likely to subscribe wholeheartedly. All said, though, I've still never run across a better attempt to reconcile scientific expertise with honest religious faith.
I wanted to bump this topic because Kenneth Miller's work addresses a few hot issues being debated right now.
Message 16 of this thread quotes the passage in Miller's book concerning his meeting with Henry Morris.
Miller's Christian faith has not prevented him from understanding biology, accepting the reality of common ancestry, and affirming the mechanistic basis of evolution. Although I doubt any of our creationist members have read Miller's work, I wonder what they would make of his thoughts. Certainly Miller shines a harsh light on creationism's scientific shortcomings, but he also addresses the metaphysical concerns raised by creationists here at EvC.
Kenneth R. Miller writes:
convictions that allow science to be bent beyond recognition are not merely unjustified - they are dangerous in the intellectual and even in the moral sense, because they corrupt and compromise the integrity of human reason.
My impromptu breakfast with Henry Morris taught me an important lesson-the appeal of creationism is emotional, not scientific. I might be able to lay out graphs and charts and diagrams, to cite laboratory experiments and field observations, to describe the details of one evolutionary sequence after another; but to the true believers of creationism, these would all be sound and fury, signifying nothing. The truth would always be somewhere else.
------------------ The dark nursery of evolution is very dark indeed. Brad McFall
[This message has been edited by MrHambre, 12-18-2003]
I feel Kenneth Miller is viewed by creationists as the 'token believer' in the evolutionist camp. Nothing could be further from the truth.
He's an accomplished cell biologist who's also a fine writer, and in this typically excellent article he asserts that "In many respects, evolution is the key to understanding our relationship with God." In short, he's not trying to draw a line between religion and science, he's trying to make sure we understand that these are two sides of the same coin. We have to be honest in the way we deal with both matters, or else we're not seeing the full picture.
I challenge the creationists here to read the essay on the link posted in the previous paragraph. It distills many of the points made in Miller's book Finding Darwin's God, which I have already read and recommended. These points are crucial to the debate here at EvC and I want to know why creationists continue to ignore them.
The dark nursery of evolution is very dark indeed. Brad McFall
quote:Huh? Help. I'm not understanding this at all. "The only way we have freedom"? What does that mean?
Here's a zany idea. Why don't you read Miller's essay? Or, knock yourself out, read his excellent book and find the answers to these questions and many more besides?The dark nursery of evolution is very dark indeed. Brad McFall
If 'theistic evolutionist' just means someone who believes in God but affirms evolution, I'd say Miller qualifies. But he doesn't believe in any spirit-guided evolutionary process, according to his writing.
I read Miller's book, but I don't own a copy of it and can't quote the relevant passages. I recall he wasn't in league with those who say "evolution is God's way of creating," because as a cell biologist he couldn't look at the universe as anything other than self-sustaining. A God who creates through a process whereby the vast majority of his species go extinct, and precarious environmental fitness is paid for by an immense amount of death and waste, is obviously unworthy of worship. Miller claims that when quantum indeterminacy put Newton's clockwork universe to rest, it changed the rules for both believers and atheists: no longer could we say that all things were predetermined in a domino cascade of cause-and-effect, but gone too was the notion that science could unlock any earthly mystery.
I'm not a believer, so I don't know how Miller can live with this materialistic conception of the universe and still believe in a loving God. However, his appreciation of the philosophical use of the Darwinian evolutionary mechanism is ingenious: this is the only way believers can say God creates but has no purpose or intent in mind, because the process that actually does the work is so open-ended and versatile.
I'm not a believer. I already said I was impressed by Miller's expertise in exposing the way Dawkins and Dennett (both of whose work I greatly admire) often lack the scientific objectivity they so highly tout. However, that's a far cry from playing the sort of religious parlor game you suggest in your post. Typing the word God in upper-case letters doesn't make it any more comprehensible an idea. And ascribing the characteristics of a bored tinkerer to the idea doesn't do it much justice either.