Biology - Other

Finding Darwins God

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"Finding Darwins God"
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Ken Miller begins Finding Darwin's God by discussing the ways in which science, especially evolution and the age of the Earth, has challenged religion. These challenges have seemingly backed faith into a corner and forced religious fundamentalists to simply reject science entirely to defend themselves and their God.

But he then argues that this is not a necessary conflict, that there is sufficient room for both science and faith in a well-reasoned viewpoint. Granted, it seems that his stance requires that religion should make a few concessions in favor of science and not the other way around, but any points of contention between science and religion get resolved peacefully in Miller's analysis.

As a scientist, of course he gives a lot of weight to material and empirical truths, but uses the example of quantum indeterminacy to show that science cannot explain everything (200-201). This refutes the religions which hold a deterministic view of the world, which Miller points out is only a form of deism with a watchmaker god who has assigned every particle its place when the universe was created and now may abscond from our lives.

He refers to Aquinas to state that "for any religious believer, there is a spiritual reality that surpasses the physical reality of nature," and uses the example of transubstantiation as something with both spiritual and material realities co-existing (223). These spiritual and unknowable events confirm God as being personally active and involved in the world still; even if some may find a probabilistic world indicative of a less powerful (especially in omniscience) God than a deterministic one, but really it allows a better understanding of how God relates to us.

Miller believes that the creator-God did not directly make the universe, but merely set up the initial parameters the scientific laws by which everything is governed so that the universe could create itself. This process sacrifices our understanding of God as omniscience and omnipotent, but in exchange allows free will both for humans and for the universe in general. God's sacrifice of his ability (called kenosis, an emptying) allows for a more sophisticated relationship with mankind and also allows him some unexpected novelty within his creation.

One of the mistakes which Christian special creationists and the like make is their dismissal of the natural world as merely a false backdrop for their true religion. If God is the creator and the embodiment of truth, then all truth which we can know, whether through scientific or spiritual means, should be valid and potentially reveal something further about the nature of God. However, this can be interpreted incorrectly that some natural phenomena should have a "'Made by Yahweh' stamp inside of the machinery of nature" (276). Without that message (and we have not yet found an irreducibly complex organism, so it seemingly is), some religious adherents may see natural science as separate from and a threat to their faith. Scientific materialists actually seem to commit the same mistake (although the two groups would be very unhappy to be placed together) that without overt evidence to the contrary, science eclipses religion and God's existence and renders them unnecessary.

But Miller makes clear that religion should not be "best found in territory unknown, in the corners of darkness that have not yet seen the light of understanding" (262). It is a credit to the power and foresight of God that he was able to create such a seamless, rational, functional world. To best explore or understand our spiritual nature, we will be best served with a synthesis between science and religion, not the narrow confines of fundamentalism by either discipline.

More about this author: Sibyl L. Vane

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