Finding Darwin's God
Kenneth R. Miller
xii "Religion leads one side to reject the cornerstone of the life sciences, while the other delights in telling us that science can determine the meaning of life - which is, of course, that it does not have one."
I Darwin's Apple
Giving some biographical intro about his experience with faith and science growing up, he immediately goes head to head with some of the agressive atheist camp: Dennett, Dawkins, E. O. Wilson
p12 Dennett quote from Darwin's Dangerous Idea, "Let me lay my cards on the table. If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I'd give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law. But it is not just a wonderful scientific idea. It is a dangerous idea. "
Miller does express his respect and admiration for Darwin's work, so this is not to be Darwin bashing. In this first chapter he does put on the table the gauntlets thrown down by some of the agressive atheists.
p14 Dawkins "Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist."
p15 Dawkins "This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous - indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose."
p15 E. O. Wilson "If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species."
p16 George C. Williams passage on monkey species where the new male killed all the offspring of the previous - used it to say "Do you still think God is good?"
p21 Reflects fondly on his common-sense New England neighbors and suggests what their questions would be on evolution issues "The bottom-line issues. Did evolution actually take place? And if it did, did evolution produce us, too? In plain language, I would answer those questions the only way that fact and science allow. Yes, it did. And yes, we are the children of evolution, too."
p21ff He argues for "gumshoe evidence", retrospective detective work.
p27 Scientific materialism "At its core is the belief that natural phenomena can be explained by material causes."
p28 Goes through in some detail how we came to understand how the Sun works. Asks if saying the Sun is miraculous is as persuasive.
"Of course not. The statement that the workings of the sun are miraculous would place them beyond explanation, beyond investigation. If what happens on the sun is a miracle, then there is no point in trying to understand it. That line of reasoning is one of the things that has sometimes earned religion a bad reputation among scientists. If taken at face value, the miraculous explanation would tell us that science is not worth the trouble, that it will never yield the answers we seek, and that nature will forever be beyond all human understanding. Sterile and nonproductive in its consequences, the claim of miracle would put a lid on curiosity, experimentation, and the human creative imagination."
p28 "If the scientific method allows us to investigate the distant, does it also permit us to study the ancient?" He proceeds with "pop-top science" and describes how digging in garbage heaps would allow us to date recent history with the type of pop-tops found.
p32 Describes fossil findings of William Smith at the time of the digging of the Somerset Canal in Britain in 1769. Even back to Leonardo da Vinci wo demonstrated that fossils had not been formed simultaneously.
p33 Smith publishes geologic map of England and Wales
p34 Georges Cuvier - analysis of elephants 1823
p34 Etiene Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire - showed that fossils were not gavial but Telosaurus or Stenesaurus - connection between extinct and living species.
p38 Time line >3billion for prokaryotic, 1.5 billion eukaryotic, several hundred million more multicellular - sweep of biologic history
p39 Figure 2.1 Time line
p40 Amphibians from fish, ie early amphibians like fish, early birds like dinosaurs, first mammals like reptiles. "descent with modification"
p43 discussion of branching, Fig 2.4 on pg 44
p44 rhizosolenia - deposit on ocean bottom for long period of time, what we call diatomaceous earth, 1.7 million back to 3.3 million, split at 2.9million. Continuous deposition for 2 million years, with a speciation event right in the middle of the data. Cronin and Schneider.
p45 plot of data
p46 Brain size vs time leading to homo sapiens
p47 Herring and blackback gulls as example of ring species
p47 ring species of salamanders in California
p48 Living things, after all, are constructed by the execution of a series of genetic messages encoded in DNA. Genes, the functional units of that genetic program, generally encode proteins, which are the workhorses of the cell. As our exploration of the genomes of humans and other organisms expands, it becomes clear that those proteins can do just about everything required to produce an organism - ..."
p49 Penicillin story - inhibits enzyme that accomplishes cross-linking in bacterial cell wall, causing cell wall to collapse at some point.
p50 Developing resistant bacteria "prospers at our expense"
p50 1996 HIV protease blocker - new protease inhibitors gave dramatic improvements for HIV patients, but these viruses mutated around them in a short period of time.
p51 Evolution as a tool. "I believe that one of the things that bothers poeople most about evolution is the simplicity of its three-part mechanism. Mutation, variation, and natural selection. Is that really all there is to it? 'Well, yes.' is the proper answer, followed by a very quick disclaimer. 'There's a lot more to that mechanism than meets the eye.' A lot more."
p52 Example of evolution as a tool in developing resistance. Modifying cells and letting them develop an RNA cutter. Increase of 32,000 fold in resistance. Evolution as a powerful creative force.
p53 Soliloquy on "Evolution is a fact"
p54 Evolution as a theory - a description of the mechanism. Evolution is both a fact and a theory. "Evolution is both a fact and a theory. It is a fact that evolutionary change took place. And evolution is also a theory that seeks to explain the detailed mechanism behind that change."
p55 about the two creation stories "The conflict between these two versions of our history is real, and I do not doubt for a second that it needs to be addressed. What I do not believe is that the conflict is unresolvable."
p55-56 Two eloquent pages on the conflicts between religious and scientific view.
p56 need to reread those pages. Culminates with "As we add to the growing richness of life's documentary record, we can be justifiably proud, not just of the fact that we - along with every other living thing on the planet - are among life's winners, but especially of the fact that we are the very first creatures in 35 million centuries to become aware of the magnificence of our legacy."
Ch 3 God the Charlatan
p58 William F Buckley 1997 as part of evolution debate on Firing Line "How much science do we need to master to qualify as reasonably to affirm that there has to be a reason for you and me and the world we live in - a reason other than raw nature driven by - driven by what?"
p58 Debate with Henry Morris.
p60 Alludes to Behe and ID and Johnson, whom he takes on later
p61 Blasts the ICR's attribution of the distribution of stuff to the Genesis flood. Points to other literature and points out inconsistencies, particularly no flowering plants low in the strata "Plants are good at many things, but running to higher ground during a flood is not one of them."
p62 The coprolite story Coprolites are fossilized feces, and provide and excellent way to test young earth theories, but not used.
p67 U235 existence shows us that the earth and the universe had a beginning.
p67 Good description of uranium lead dating, general description of radioactive dating.
p68 K/Ar never an overestimate.
p69 A Census of the Universe "The power of radioisotope methods is so great that creationists are reduced to sniping about the chemical and physical assumptions inherent .."
p70 List of nuclides by halflife. Some ideas for incorporation in Clocks in the Rocks.
p71 "Every nuclide with a half-life of less than 80 million years is missing from our region of the solar system, and every nuclide with a half-life of greater than 80 million years is present. Every single one." (some less than 80 million are present, but because they are daughter products of the longer lived species.)
p72-75 Rb/Sr dating well presented, look at for refinement of my treatment of this.
p75 Diagram from Dalrymple
p76 "However, no natural process exists that could produce over-estimates of age that would pass the rigorous test of isochron analysis."
p80 "Such so-called creation science, thoroughly analyzed, corrupts both science and religion, and it deserves a place in the intellectual wastebasket."
This is an incredible chapter - careful, logical, witty and devastating to Morris and company.
Ch 4 God the Magician
p81 "young-earth creationism requires a full frontal assault on virtually every field of modern science."
p81 Paragraph 3 is a good "set aside" summary with which to dismiss YEC
p83 Intro to Eldridge and Gould
p84 Intro to punctuated equilibrium, even to the slang form "punk eek". He turns out to be critical of punctuated equilibrium and gives further examples why.
p90 Takes on Phillip Johnson and intelligent design.
p92 David Berlinski (whom he characterizes as an evolution critic) "The structures of life are complex, and complex structures get made in this, the purely human world, only by a process of deliberate design. An act of intelligence is required to bring even a thimble into being; why should the artifacts of life be different?"
p93-94 Powerful story of fauna on the Galapagos and Cape de Verde islands. These are fauna unique to the islands but similar to their distant mainland neighbors South America and Africa respectively. This builds strong evidence for evolution.
p94 Quotes the book of Job on elephants, and then tells the elephant story, a classic evolution defense, similar to the way Darrel Falk tells it in "Coming to Peace with Science".
p100 about 10,000 living species of mammals
p100 last paragraph Gould and the "senseless signs of history", like the egg yolk sack around the human embryo when it no longer has any purpose.
p101 The yolk sack story
p101 "Instead, evolution tinkers, improvises, and cobbles together new organs out of old parts. A true designer would face no such problems, and could produce genuinely new structures, molecules, and organs whenever needed. Unfortunately for us, it doesn't seem to work that way."
p101 "To adopt the explanation of design, we are forced to attribute a host of flaws and imperfections to the designer. Our appendix, for example, seems to serve only to make us sick ..."
p102 "Job's God may have bragged about the elephant, but would he really want to take credit for the mosquito?"
p103 Begins DNA. E Coli contains 4,639,221 letters, organized into a total of 4,288 genes.
p105 Makes the case that bacteria are not limited to producing copies or variations of previously existing genes. "all we'd have to do to achieve total victory against such diseases would be to produce a few brand-new, totally synthetic antibiotics. With no preexisting genes around, and with the evolution of new beneficial mutations possible, a new, synthetic antibiotic should be invincible. Unfortunately, medical researchers know that this is just not true. Under the right conditions, evolution eventually produces and selects for resistance genes to every antibiotic, natural or synthetic.
p106-107 A detailed and eye-opening example of evolution in action. An experiment where an oxygen-sensitive protein that was only produced during fermentation.was changed to one that was switched on all the time and highly resistant to oxygen damage. This was in fewer than 200 bacterial generations.
p118 Gould and the Cerion, a Bahamian land snail.
p124 In 1991 a fish-like terapod with internal gills was discovered
p125 Devonian fish in a roadside excavation in Pennsylvania. A fish with fingers
p127 first paragraph important summary of the evidence for evolution in action
p128 Last paragraph a good summary
Ch 5 God the Mechanic
p129 Temin and reverse thranscriptase enzyme and McClintock and jumping genes, examples of his heroes in biological research.
p130 Takes on Behe.
p137 Dawkins and the Blind Watchmaker, bat and echolocation as Dawkins foil.
p138 Ossicle story, formation and adaptation of ossicles from an extra jawbone at some stage in history. As story that Falk also tells on p116 of "Coming to Peace with Science".
p139 Broadsides Behe on the line "any precursor to an irreducible complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional", saying it is simply wrong. The ossicle story is one example, and he takes the position that evolution takes parts that were working for something else and adapts and improves them for a new function, so that at no point were they completely nonfunctional.
p140 Bacterial flagellum - fairly thorough discussion.
p142 different flagelli
p145 turning galactosidase on and off
p148 NAD, NADH OCDH story
p149 fish antifreeze and introns
p149 another example of development of a protein pump, which he uses to respond to the line "Of what use is half a wing?"
p150 Discussion of the evolutionary origin of the Krebs cycle.
p152-158 Blood clotting. Responding to Behe - detailed discussion, need to reread.
p158-160 Lobster clotting - a different system
6. The Gods of Disbelief
p166 "In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences matter-of-factly described evolution as "the most important concept in modern biology".
p166-167 Discusses why evolution engenders such opposition - good summary and discussion. Raises question of why so much resistance, and answers "The reason, I would argue, is not because they aren't aware of strength of the scientific evidence behind it. Instead, it is because of a well-founded belief that the concept of evolution is used routinely, in the intellectual sense, to justify and advance a philosophical worldview that they regard as hostile and even alien to their lives and values."
p168 "lift that burden from human imagination"
p168 Futuyma quote includes "Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous..."
p169 "will argue that an accurate and complete understanding of that world, even in purely material terms, should deepen and strengthen the faith of any religious person"
Turns his cannons on:
p170 Gould Two good quotes to show the incredible duplicity of Gould, as fact that he credits Johnson with recognizing clearly.
p172 Dembski "He has seen the likes of Dawkins and Provine hone a fine edge on evolution to craft it into an anti-religious weapon, and he is determined to resist the use of that weapon at all costs."
p173 A rather poignant story of his debate with Henry Morris in which he hammered Morris on flood geology, but then came at last to some measure of respect for Morris. "I had sat down thinking he was a charlatan, but I left appreciating the depth, the power, and the sincerity of his convictions. Nontheless, however one might admire Morris's strength of character, convictions that allow science to be bent beyond recognition are not merely unjustified - they are dangerous in the intellectual and even in the moral sense, because they corrupt and compromise the integrity of human reason."
p174 Another poignant story of Kurt Wise, prof at Bryan College, student of Stephen Jay Gould. Writer Jack Hitt writes of hearing Wise defend creationist geology and create a positive feeling for it, communicating what creationists feel that Darwinism has taken from them.
"To Wise and many others, the disciples of evolution have crushed the innocence of childhood, poisoned the garden of belief, and replaced both with a calculating reality that chills and hardens the soul. How sweet it would be to close one's eyes to "Darwin's damn theory," and once again sleep blissfully (Gould notwithstanding) in the bosom of Abraham."
p174 A Dangerous Idea
p174 "...evolution almost begs for extrapolation."
p175 Begins his argument against this extrapolation.
p177 Gould vs Dennett on language
p177-179 Miller begins to pull back on the reins of the runaway of Darwinism into every other field and to resist its use as the ultimate weapon against religion. He recoils at Dennetts view of religion
p180 Turns the guns on E. O. Wilson. E.O. Wilson is a biologist who does research with ants, wasps, bees and other social insects. Below is one of the standard quotes from Wilson
p180 "If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species. Deity can still be sought in the origin of the ultimate units of matter, in quarks and electron shells (Hans Kung was right to ask atheists why there is something instead of nothing) but not in the origin of species. However much we embellish that stark conclusion with metaphor and imagery, it remains the philosophical legacy of the last century of scientific research."
p181 Wilson on self-serving religion, two quotes that suggest that religion has a Darwinian explanation.
p182 Lays out his differences with Wilson, and even Dennett draws back from Wilson.
p183 Wilson argues that his explanation for the existence of the religious impulse is the death knell for belief. A really scary quote.
p183 "To Wilson, once an evolutionary explanation for the existence of religion has been fashioned, the very idea of God is doomed."
p184 "All of a sudden, Gould's questionable truce between the nonoverlapping spheres of science and religion has come completely unglued. In Edward O. Wilson's hands, Darwin's idea has become dangerous indeed."
p185 The Fabric of Disbelief
p185 David Hull statement in Nature that extrapolates to make judgements on God as an example of how evolutionary biolgogists are willing to jump right out to judge the Creator.
p185 Shrugs off Gould, but reacts strongly to others "But such is not the case for the others. Dawkins draws directly on evolution to say that life is without meaning. Wilson finds that evolution can explain God away as an artifact of sociobiology. And Dennett is ready to dig quarantine fences around zoos in which religion, held safely in check, can be appreciated from a distance."
"All of these writers have gone well beyond any reasonable scientific conclusions that might emerge from evolutionary biology. Without saying so directly, they have embraced a brand of materialism that excludes from serious consideration any source of knowledge other than science. They are not alone. Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin endorses this view in so many words, and explicitly proclaims that it should be part of a social program to transform human society. As he puts it, when science speaks to the masses"
p186 Lewontin " ...the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, Science, as the only begetter of truth."
p186 the often quoted Lewontin tirade that includes "cannot allow a divine foot in the door".
p187 Quotes Kurt Wise, Gould's creationist PhD student in a review of Gould's "Wonderful Life" Gould argues the wild improbability of humankind's presence on the Earth. "even if it were replayed a million times or more, man would not be expected again." "If ever evolutionary theory has been elaborated to the point of complete incompatibility with a Christian world view, it is by the pen of Stephen Jay Gould in this, his most recent tome."
p189 story of Clarence Darrow.
p190-191 More sparring with Lewontin
Ch 7 Beyond Materialism
A poetic reflection on the rise of science and the finishing off of the gods.
194 Lighting a Candle
p194 quote from Carl Sagan dismissing faith
p196 "In the past, the idea that nature was a complete, functional, self-sufficient system was seldom thought to be an argument against the existence of God. Quite the contrary, it was regarded as proof of the wisdom and skill and care of that great architect. The heavens in all their regularity reflected the grandeur of the Lord."
p198 On the color of a hot metal - nice quote. Planck 1900, 1902 Philipp von Lenard credited with photoelectric measurement, then Einstein.
p198-207 Intro to quantum
p207 Uses quotes from Schrodinger to begin to picture a situation in which we might take quantum effects in to the probabilities for mutations. Its a way to get away from strict Newtonian determinism . "In other words, evolutionary history can turn on a very, very small dime - the quantum state fo a single subatomic particle."
p210 More on the Burgess Shale
p212 Begins to explore some ideas that I have thought about - the difference between "random" and "indeterminate". "Physical events, generally speaking, are not all random in this sense because all outcomes are not equally probable. The possible locations of an electron around an atomic nucleus are given by a probability wave that tells us which locations for the electron are most likely and which are so unlikely that they need not be considered as possible."
p213 "Committed atheists like Dawkins would attack with ridicule any suggestion that room for the work of a Deity can be found in the physical nature of reality. But Dawkin's personal skepticism no more disproves the existence of God than the creationist's incredulity is an argument against evolution. What matters is the straightforward, factual, strictly scientific recognition that matter in the universe behaves in such a way that we can never achieve complete knowledge of any fragment of it, and that life itself is structured in a way that allows biological history to pivot directly on these tiny uncertainties. That ought to allow even the most critical scientist to admit that the breaks in causality at the atomic level make in fundamentally impossible to exclude the idea that what we have really caught a glimpse of might indeed reflect the mind of God."
216 Dembski and Dawkins quotes in context of wanting a God who acts in the now.
p217 Interesting exploratory ideas
p218 Miller struggles with the idea that creationists tend to put God's acts in the past to explain things we can't explain, but he looks for a way for God to act in the present.
p218 "If God is real, this is the world He has to work in. " "What this means, in plain and simple terms, is that ordinary processes, rooted in the genuine materialism of science, ought to be sufficient to allow God's work - yesterday, today and tomorrow."
p219 "'So, what?' the extreme materialist might say. Why does it matter if a few events at the atomic level are unpredictable? Or even if life itself is built upon an apparatus that amplifies those events into significance? It matters because materialistic science, even in principle, cannot tell us why the universe of matter is structured in a way that prevents us from understanding it fully. Or why nature forever entangles the observer with the system he seeks to understand. Or even why we should concern ourselves with seeking the answers to such questions."
p219 "But the tools of science itself have discovered that scientific materialism has a curious, inherent limitation."
Chapter 8, The Road Back Home is wonderful - covers enormous territory in a sensitive and thoughtful way. It is also his story of faith.
p222 three points of faith
p225 Jastrow quote
p228 Tackles anthropic principle. Standard treatment but includes one element I should check out more carefully. If a resonance level of carbon were 4% lower, there would be no carbon formation in stars. B J Carr M J Rees, 1979 Review in Nature.
p229 quotes from Carr and Rees, Dyson, Hawking, Dennett review for vignettes on anthropic principle
p230 discusses the fact that Dennett jumps enthusiastically onto the multiple universes option - it gets him out of an awkward position on fine tuning. An example of Miller's humor: "...Dennett reasons that sooner or later - and quite accidentally - in one of those universes the combination of laws and constants would be just right for the evolution of life, and bingo: a couple of billion years later, beings like us appear. Eager, curious, and annoyingly scientific. We wouldn't know anything about all those other universes, and we'd probably conclude that our universe had been tailored just for us."
p231 continues to needle Dennett
p233 "There, in a nutshell, is the problem. If evolution really did take place, then God must have rigged everything. Otherwise, how could He have been sure that evolution would have produced us? And if He didn't, isn't our species, Homo sapiens, nothing more than, as Gould puts it, a 'tiny twig on an improbable branch of a contingent limb on a fortunate tree?' Surely we could not be both the products of evolution and the apple of God's eye?"
p239 "A similar argument applies to another concern- the notion that evolution, making nature self-sufficient, leaves nothing for God to do. It becomes necessary - a theological imperative - to find some element of the natural world that cannot be explained by scientific materialism. If we find such elements, we can rescue God from the ranks of deist unemployment, making Him active and necessary again - or so the thinking goes."
p240 "We are now far enough along in the development of science to appreciate that its track record suggests that ultimately it will find natural causes for natural phenomena."
p241 Ian Barbour claims that human freedom would be impossible without God's willingness to limit His actions.
"If all power is on God's side, what powers are assignable to humanity?...But if omnipotence is defended, and everthing that happens is God's will, then God is responsible for evil and suffering and God's goodness is compromised."
p242 Polkinghorne on the nature of time
p250 "No question about it - our origins as individuals come entirely from the materials of life. The Creator fashioned a world in which matter became the basis of life."
p255 van Till on Augustine's conception of the character of the world
p255 Augustine statement
p269 Futuyma as example of the Weapons of Disbelief