On April 8, 2009, I went to the
College of St. Catherine, a Roman Catholic university in St. Paul, to
attend a presentation by evolutionary biologist Kenneth R. Miller.
The lecture was entitled "Finding Darwin's God,"
after his book by the same name, which came out about ten years ago.
remember reading Finding Darwin's God awhile back. The
first half of the book was an excellent defense of evolution and
critique of creationism. The second half of the book was a poor
defense of god belief. I remember thinking that if Miller had only
applied the logic from the first half of his book to the second half,
he would be an atheist.
was one of the star witnesses on the side of science in the
"intelligent design" case in Dover, Pennsylvania a couple
years ago. He's now come out with a new book, Only a
God" that Miller refers to is evidently a supernatural creator
that Darwin implies exists in the final sentence of Origin of
Species: "There is grandeur in this view of life, with its
several powers, having been originally breathed 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 beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved."
Miller sees an overall
god-intelligence in the universe, but not the day-to-day
micromanaging of evolution that Intelligent Design advocates allege.
This god is supposedly the First Cause and set nature's laws in
motion - including genetic mutation, natural selection, and
heredity; in other words, evolution - and then stepped back and
let the universe run itself. So, this god works through unguided
evolution to create new species.
What Miller didn't
tell us during his talk was that by the end of his life Darwin had
become an agnostic. In other words, Darwin himself had lost Darwin's
One of the reasons Darwin
abandoned the all-powerful, all-loving Christian god was because of
the cruelty he saw in nature.
lecture I spoke with him and asked him how he, a Catholic, could
reconcile the cruelty in nature with the idea of a loving god.
I first asked why God
couldn't have made all creatures vegetarians, so that some
animals wouldn't have to painfully and cruelly kill and eat
others. Miller said that that would mean that God would be stepping
in and interfering with the natural evolutionary processes that he
had set in motion. (Evidently God avoids miracles these days.)
I then asked Miller about
painful human birth defects where the child dies very young. Why
couldn't God have arranged it so that all genetic mutations
were neutral or beneficial mutations? His answer was the same: that
that would mean that God would be stepping in and interfering with
the natural evolutionary processes that he had set in motion.
seems that Miller understands the theological problem with a god who
has to constantly intervene in his creation. He once stated "[I]f
God purposely designed 30 horse species that later disappeared, then
God's primary attribute is incompetence. He can't make
it right the first time." ("Educators debate
‘intelligent design' " by Richard N. Ostling, Star
Tribune, March 23, 2002, p. B9.)
It seemed to me that this
god wasn't of much use. "So in other words," I
said, "this world operates exactly the way we would expect it
to operate if there were no god." Miller agreed, citing
retired Vatican astronomer George Coyne who said that the universe
doesn't need God.
Again, I asked him how he
was able to reconcile the problem of natural evil with a loving god.
He said that he was able to do so, but he didn't provide
details as to how. I told him I have never been able to do it.
Other people were waiting to
talk with Kenneth Miller, so we parted company, agreeing to disagree.
As I walked back to my car, I
thought: Miller has all but admitted that there is no actual evidence
for a god, and that certainly a god wasn't involved in the
daily process of evolution. And yet Miller believes in a god. This
must mean that he believes on a basis other than evidence. In other
words, on faith. Evidently the belief came first and the
Miller was raised by Roman
Catholic parents and is "coincidently" a Roman Catholic
himself. Of all the varieties of god belief he could have chosen, he
"just happened" to pick the one he was raised with.
Indoctrination has trumped evidence. To me, this seems like a very