Servant of the Secret Fire

Random thoughts on books and life in the reality-based community

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Location: New York, United States

The name I've chosen comes from "Lord of the Rings," when Gandalf faces down the Balrog in the Mines of Moria. My Hebrew name is Esther (which is related to the word for "hidden" or "secret") Serafina (which means "burning"). This seems appropriate because although I don't usually put myself forward, I do care very passionately about a lot of things. Maybe through these blogs I can share some of these passions, as well as less weighty ideas and opinions, with others.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Book Review: Finding Darwin's God

Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth R. Miller *****

Subtitled “A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution,” this book is a thoughtful and serious attempt to resolve the question of whether a sincere Christian (or adherent of any other Western religion, which is his main focus) can also accept Darwinian evolution. In the first chapter, Miller recounts his religious Catholic upbringing, his introduction to Darwin (dogged by warnings that he was reading a “dangerous” book), and his later decision to enter the field of biology.

The next part of the book looks at the development of the scientific method and the theory of evolution, as well as painstakingly and devastatingly refuting the three major schools of opposition to it. He shows that the proponents of these “alternatives” misunderstand and distort science, continue using obsolete arguments long after they are debunked, and make no effort to do scientific research of their own while demanding that their ideas be accepted as science. He also argues that they present profoundly flawed pictures of God, as evidenced by his chapter titles: “God the Charlatan,” “God the Magician,” and “God the Mechanic.“

Miller also tackles head-on the most legitimate beef of the anti-evolutionists, the use of ”Darwinism“ by many scientists to attack religion and to claim that if nature can be explained and understood, God is proven not to exist or life proven to be purposeless. He feels that it is as wrong to make these claims as it is to attempt to use science to ”prove“ that God does exist.

The final third of the book is devoted to a passionate and well thought out case that acceptance of the truth of evolution is not only not a bar to a sincere and committed religious outlook, but can be, in conjunction with other areas of science, an affirmation of it. I won’t try to summarize or do justice to his argument here, but I believe that many who are more traditional than I am will find it convincing. I don’t think that Miller will convert any atheists to his point of view, but that is not his purpose. What he is doing is reaching out to believers and offering them a place at the table instead of antagonizing them and pushing them away, without compromising his scientific integrity. His obvious enthusiasm for science and love of God make him a perfect person to do this, and given that people are most belligerent when they feel that their core beliefs are being threatened, it seems to me to be a very sensible course to follow.

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