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Finding Darwin's God
reviewed by John Scull

Miller, Kenneth R., Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. New York: Cliff Street Books, 1999. ISBN: 0060930497

For someone like myself, trained as a scientist but plagued by a yearning for the truths of religion, this book is a gift. Like the universe story of Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme, this well-written volume provides a vision that includes both scientific and spiritual ways of knowing. Along the way it dispels a great deal of nonsense that has been written about the theory of Evolution both by advocates and opponents.

The value of this book for ecopsychology, besides the numerous interesting stories about the diversity of life and the excitement of science, may reside in its claim that a belief in materialist science is consistent with a view of Nature as a magical, conscious expression of the mind of God, the ground of all being. Miller's presentation of evolutionary theory in a religious context is refreshingly undogmatic.

Author Ken Miller is a cell biologist and professor of biology at Brown University. In addition to research, teaching, and textbook writing, he seems to have spent a great deal of time in public debate with Creationists. Miller sees nothing contradictory in being a cell biologist who believes in God.

In the first two chapters of this very readable book, Miller introduces the theory of Evolution. The next three chapters are devoted to refuting the various forms of Creationism. He manages to demolish the various creationist positions in a way that would satisfy most scientists and philosophers, but I doubt if he would convince anyone already committed to one of these Creationist views.

He then has a wonderful chapter where he lumps together all the radical Darwinists and advocates of Evolution in one basket, ignoring their heated debates and personal differences with each other. He tars Dawkins, Dennett, Gould, Wilson, Lewontin, and Pinker with the same brush. Miller expresses great admiration and total agreement with their science but he deplores their unscientific extensions of Darwinism beyond the data of biology and paleontology to human culture and society, and especially to religion.

Religion has tried to explain the unknowns in nature and, as a result, has steadily retreated before the advance of science. Religion as a "default explanation" is a losing proposition. The next chapter discusses how in the last century physics has discovered that at the quantum level uncertainty is inherent in the structure of reality. Modern physics tells us that some things are not simply yet to be known, they are genuinely indeterminate and unknowable. Miller cogently explains how this quantum uncertainty is amplified by living beings, where random and unpredictable changes at the molecular level are translated into the mutations that lead to the variety and richness of life. He also suggests that this uncertainty in genetics and nervous systems provides a way for God to intervene in history without violating natural laws.

In the two final chapters Miller discusses the interesting observation that these writers, Creationists and Evolutionists alike, have a basic assumption in common. They all agree that evolution and religion can't both be true. He makes a cogent case that this position is illogical, whether it comes from Creationist Christians or atheist materialist scientists. The theory of Evolution is not about religion and the Book of Genesis is not about science.

What kind of God can an evolutionary biologist believe in? A God who created the universe. Miller ends the book with a passage from the closing chapter of Darwin's Origin of Species:

"There is a 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."

Finding Darwin's God is an interesting and enjoyable antidote both for Dennett's "universal acid" of Evolution and the willful ignorance of Creationism. Spirituality and science need not be in conflict, they are asking different questions and finding different answers about the same reality.



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