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Where are you from?" It's the kind of question that strangers, trying to become friends, will often ask one another.
No one can begin to know another until he knows where that person is from. Not just his family, school, and town, but everything that has helped to bring him to this point in his life.
This book is about the ultimate "Where are you from?" question. As important as it may be to understand one's ethnic origin and cultural identity, the bigger question is one that every child, sooner or later, asks of his or her parents: "Where did people come from?" In each culture according to its fashion, every child gets an answer. For me, a little boy growing up in suburban New Jersey in the 1950s, the answer came in the form of the first couplet of my religious training:
Question: "Who made us?"
Answer: "God made us."
Every year, that training reached deeper, demanded more, and grappled with more sophisticated questions of faith and virtue. But every year, it began with exactly the same question: Who made us? And that question was always followed by exactly the same answer. God made us.
In a different building, only a few hundred yards away from the red brick walls of St. Mary's, I began to find another answer to that question. This other school did not always grapple with the same straightforward questions of right and wrong that were the weekly fare of our catechism, but it taught its students to believe something at least as intoxicating as the divinity of their origins--the possibility that the world around us was constructed insuch a way that we could actually make sense of it. That great secular faith drew strength from a culture in which science seemed to fuel not only the fires of imagination, but the fires of industry as well. And that faith extended to living things, which yielded, like everything else in the natural world, to the analysis of science.
Looking back on my youth, I am struck by how meticulously those two aspects of education were channeled to avoid conflict. Teachers on both sides, secular and religious, were careful to avoid pointing out the dramatic clash between the most fundamental aspects of their world views. No one ever suggested a catechism with a different beginning:
Question: "Who made us?"
Answer: "Evolution made us."
Nonetheless, the conflict between those two points of view is real. The traditional Western view of humanity as the children of God once had a direct, literal basis in the historical narrative of sacred scripture. Not only was God our spiritual father, He was also the direct agent of our creation. His actions were the immediate cause of our existence, and His planning and engineering skills were manifest in every aspect of our bodies. By extension, the splendor and diversity of the living world that surrounds us testified to the very same care and skill.
Charles Darwin himself recognized how profoundly scientific analysis had changed this view of life and humanity when he wrote the historical sketch that preceded his great work, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Generously (and correctly) he gave credit for this transformation to the now much-maligned French naturalist Jean Baptiste Lamarck:
In these works, he [Lamarck] upholds the doctrine that all species, including man, are descended from other species. He first did the eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all change in the organic, as well as in the inorganic world, being the result of law, and not of miraculous interposition.
Today it is very clear that the line of reasoning Darwin attributed to Lamarck has emerged triumphant. Change in the inorganic and organic world is no longer attributed to "miraculous interposition." It once was possible to point to a humble seed and invoke the attention of the Almighty as the only possible explanation for how such an ordinary object could grow into a mighty tree. Today we look into the seed itself, examine the program of gene expression that begins at germination, and seek our answers in the rich complexities of molecular biology and biochemistry. This does not mean that we have reduced the seedling to mere chemistry or physics. It means instead that we have elevated our understanding to appreciate the living plant in a way that lends wonder and delight to our view of nature.
My purpose in this book is to attempt something that is generally avoided. I want to ask a question that most of my colleagues shy away from, and to attack head-on the defenses that many of us have built up in our unwillingness to reconcile the two different answers to the question of "Who made us?" The question is whether or not God and evolution can coexist.
There is no need to break new scientific ground in approaching this question. The century and a half since Darwin has provided us with more than enough time to flesh out the details of his abstract outline on the process of biological change. To add to Darwin's ideas we have half a century of molecular biology, bold explorations of space and time provided by the physical sciences, an understanding of earth's history from geology, and even an appreciation of the limits of our most powerful reasoning tool--mathematics. We have to be willing to bring all these resources to bear in unfamiliar surroundings, to apply them in new ways, and to ask the sorts of questions that are not commonly heard in scientific circles.
We can by starting with the man himself, Charles Darwin, a writer of exceptional clarity whose words and ideas remain accessible, even today.
Posted January 19, 2005
Although this book has much good material, especially in the second half, it contains many major mistakes when trying to refute intelligent design. For example, research by ophthalmologists has clearly shown why the human retina must be of the 'inverted' design. Miller claims that this design is suboptimal because the photoreceptors are on the inside curvature of the retina, forcing the incoming light to travel through the front of the retina to reach the photoreceptors The photoreceptors (rods and cones) MUST face AWAY from the front of the eye in order to be in contact with the pigment epithelium on the choroid, which supply it with blood. The verted design claimed by Miller to be best would not place the photoreceptors in contact with their source of nutrition (the choroid). This is a serious problem because rods and cones need an enormous amount of energy for repair and they completely replace themselves at a very high rate (about every 7 days or so), due to phototoxicity, and other damage. Miller¿s design simply would not allow the rods and cones to function because of their extremely high rate of metabolism. Furthermore, placing the neural components of the retina in front of the photoreceptors does not produce any kind of optical handicap, since the neural elements are separated by less than a wavelength of light, so very little or no scattering or diffraction occurs, and the light travels through this area as if it was near-perfect transparency.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 18, 2000
An excellent book for anyone wondering about the creation-evolution debate. I especially recommend this book to anyone who has rejected a belief in God because of the pseudoscientific arguments of creationists, is questioning their faith in light of scientific evidence, or doubt the anti-theistic claims of some scientists. Miller's strength is in his science, and handily and clearly presents the evidence for an ancient earth and evolution that is ignored by creationists. However, one will need to go elsewhere for a more detailed discussion of Biblical texts. (For that, I recommend Dick Fisher's book, The Origins Solution).Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2000
This is a nicely written and compelling text, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is bored with the tired old 'either/or' rhetoric of the so-called evolution-creation debate. The science is never overly difficult. Coupled with the author's pleasant style, this serves to make the reader feel intelligent and informed. Dr. Miller presents the various kinds of creationism and shows up the logical problems with these anti-science views. He also demonstrates how one need not be an atheist to be an evolutionist. Indeed, as Darwin himself said, 'there is a grandeur in this view of life.'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 25, 2000
Although it is probably obvious to many scientists and philosophers, there are still many laypersons who think that one must either believe in God or believe in Darwin. Dr. Miller's lively and compelling text demonstrates that his need not be so. In fact, he argues that belief in Darwinism actually can lead a thoughtful person to belief in a creator God.
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Posted June 6, 2000
The first part of the book discusses the reasons why evolution is overwhelmingly accepted by biologists. In the second part of the book, he talks about the relationship between science and religion, and why people so often see natural explanations as a threat to their religious belief. He points out that people accept that natural explanations apply to their daily lives without ruling out the presence of God, so why do people not like natural explanations for other kinds of events?Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2000
Dr. Kenneth Miller tries vainly to find a reconciliation between God and organic evolution. To begin with, he gives the standard 'evolution is fact' litany, but then gives away the store when he tacitly admits that such things as the origin of life have not been shown to be explicable by organic evolution. He then argues that, in time, science will be able to. Perhaps, but this is faith in materialism on his part, not faith in God. So are his bold pro-evolutionary statements (e. g., 'the gaps are filling up') which are very much open to question. Brown tries to find God in such things as aesthetics and in the human sense of wonder. Trouble is, such phenomena are treated as survival-enhancing phenomena by the evolution theory he espouses, and are certainly not recognized by evolutionary theory as products of God. Brown mischaracterizes scientific creationists when he charges them with seeking God in darkness. Actually, creationists seek God in both the light of Scripture, and in the light of empirical evidence, which is much more consistent with separate creations of living things than with a chain of evolutionary ancestry. He creates an artificial either-or dichotomy: a constantly-intervening Creator or a totally behind-the-scenes Creator. He falsely supposes that evolutionary theory is necessary to make room for a God who allows freedom for the function of the things that He has created. But this is totally unnecessary: God, according to the Bible, does not work miracles all the time (or even most of the time), and has long since stopped creating new things. God's miraculous behavior does not nullify His non-miraculous behavior, nor does His non-miraculous behavior mullify His past miraculous behavior. In wanting God to be part of evolution, Brown is characteristically vague as to how this is supposed to be. And he glosses over the fact that evolutionary theory rejects God as a causative agent in Earth's history--not only in the direct and miraculous sense, but also in the providential sense. In conclusion, the 'Darwin's God' of Brown is, theological language aside, completely indistinguishable from a nonexistent God. Evolution is inherently atheistic, and it is time that we face this fact squarely.
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Posted October 16, 2008
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