Saturday, May 22, 2010

Finding Darwin's God

Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (P.S.)Evolution, Creationism, Microevolution, Intelligent Design, Materialism, Science and Religion...where does one begin to understand what all controversy is about?  Start with Kenneth Miller's book, Finding Darwin's God.

Kenneth Miller is a Catholic cell biologist that clearly explains all of these subjects.  He begins by taking us through the volumes of evidence supporting Evolution, including the scientific meaning of "theory" that is often misused by opponents of Evolution.  He then gives the details of Creationism, Microevolution-only, and Intelligent Design, describing not only where these proposals are wrong based on the scientific evidence, but also where they are philosophically insufficient to explain God's relationship to His creation.

After showing the fallacies in these common challenges to Evolution, he continues on to a very important section detailing how scientists also misuse Evolution as a basis for a philosophy of religion in that it somehow proves that God does not exist.  He points out that scientists' vicious religious attacks are some of the reasons why Evolution has such passionate opponents. (He did not continue on with how a twisted interpretation of Evolution became the foundation of the horrid philosophy of Eugenics.)  He points out the hypocrisy in demeaning those who try to discount Evolution by distorting the science while giving a pass to those who also distort the science to apply it to philosophy and society.

Finally, he takes his readers through the scientific basis as to why Evolution does not mean that our lives, our choices, our futures are determined and predicted by our genetics.  He explains that, at the very core of all the ordered universe, we have found quantum chaos that impacts even how mutations occur. In other words, God has a role to play in our lives.

My sense is that Miller wrote this book for scientists and people like me--Catholics who understand the Unity of Truth and have no qualms with Evolution, but strongly reject Evolutionism.  He demonstrates that being a serious scientist and a serious Catholic is not a conflict.  He does not, however, get into any of the theology about where Evolution fits into God's plan; he does not discuss why there is something instead of nothing, and, frankly, that is much too big a question to address in this book.

In taking this approach, he sometimes oversimplifies an argument to the point where he puts it on theologically shaky ground.  For example, he says that evolution eventually created what God was looking for--creature that could know and love Him--undermining an All-Knowing God.  He also discusses free will by saying that it is impossible to create people with the option to sin that would never do so.  Technically, using a logic argument, it is highly unlikely that no one would sin ever but not impossible.

While the book is an excellent overview of this controversial topic, it does not discuss Evolution in light of Catholic religious philosophy or theology.  Finishing this book left me looking for a good follow up to fill in these areas.

I particularly took interest in the tale of Fr. Murphy, who told a very young Miller that a flower is a work of God, just like we are, because scientists don't know why they form.  This was, indeed, a botanical mystery until a much older Miller saw the discovery of genes that cause leaves to modify into flowers.

If we teach our children a God-of-the-Gaps--that God must exist because science cannot explain certain natural phenomena--then we are setting them up to lose that belief as science progresses, especially if they become scientists.  Teach them that we must have a regular, predictable world in order to recognize miracles; that we live in a natural as well as a supernatural world; and that God is the answer to the question, "Why is there something instead of nothing?"

You can read a different review of this book at


School for Us said...

Interesting review. I just finished (this morning) a book called "Charles and Emma.". It is actually a juvenile book, but I found it very interesting and informative. It is about the lives of the Darwins, especially regarding Emma's faith and her fear that Charles would go to hell when he died. Anyway, I thought I'd mention it as I'm learning about Darwin, too.

Kris said...

I don't know too much about the life of the Darwin family faith other than they were Unitarians and yet Charles studied to become an Anglican minister. I understand they all were colorful characters.

Of course, only God can know the hearts of men and dispose our souls upon our deaths, and that is unrelated to the science of Evolution.

Daisy said...

This sounds like an excellent book. Thank you.

I second Charles and Emma. We enjoyed that book also.

Lisa said...

Nicely written review, Kris. Thanks for that. This is a hot topic around our house too, and I liked your take at the end on God-of-the-Gaps. You've given me some food for thought!

Kris said...

I ordered Charles and Emma from the library. I also have a book I picked up at a book sale called "Evolution's Captain" by Peter Nichols about the reasons why Darwin ended up on his famous voyage (NOT a kids' book.) Since I plan on having the "summer of the naturalists" these fit in well to my theme.

And thanks, Lisa. I've got to check out that kids' philosophy book you blogged about!!!

Jessica Ares said...

I love your blog, and saw it on the New England Catholic Homeschool Conference, I would love to invite you to our Homeschool Informational and Educational Meeting.

Kris said...

Jessica, come talk to me at the conference or email me: athomescience at gmail dot com said...

I found you through Mingle Monday. Thanks for this Book Review. It has certainly peaked my interest and I'm adding it to my Amazon wish list.

Rachymommy -

Theresa said...

Excellent review, Kris. Thanks!