Ken Miller, Science and the Nature of Reality.
I have been reading a lot of Ken Miller lately and reading St. Augustine’s commentary on Genesis. They have prompted some interesting thoughts I would share for you all to pick apart and stomp on. 🙂
Anyway, I have really appreciated Ken Miller’s books, Only a Theory and The Search for Darwin’s God. Miller is not only a great scientist, but he is also a terrific writer. He has given me a greater understanding of how evolution works something I have been trying to really grasp in the past year. Even more, he has helped me understand how a person can be a Christian and still believe in evolution.
The best way he does this is by his attention to detail and his honesty. When he demolishes ID, he does it by taking their claims seriously instead of dismissing it out of hand. And, take note everyone, he demonstrates scientifically why the theory is wrong through a number of different scientific examples. For the first time, I understood WHY from a scientific perspective why no one takes ID seriously rather than a dismissive, sarcastic attitude. I have often asked for people to explain why ID wasn’t a valid scientific position as I really didn’t know. Finally, Miller was able to do so through his detailed explanations. This is an example of what open and honest dialogue about the real issues can do.
Evolution gives us a great understanding of how natural life developed on earth. There is no question about this. And, as Miller points out in Darwin’s God, this is what makes many Christians uncomfortable and atheists crow about the triumph of science providing explanations that crowd God out of the picture. We no longer need God to explain everything, atheists assert, science will do it for us. Miller points out that this tension is what leads to the vehment opposition to evolution and it’s teaching in the classroom in American schools. It’s not so much about science, but about a clash of worldviews.
Miller aruges that we don’t need such a clash, because both sides misunderstand evolution, science and what it’s supposed to do. On the Christian side, Miller shows how Christians let their fear blind them to the marvels of science. On the atheist side, Miller argues that atheist take science way too far and try to make it answer questions it’s not meant to answer or can’t answer. Science, as Miller describes it, is merely an investigation of how the natural world works, no more, no less. It can’t give us meaning or show we humans do the things we do. In doing so, he engages the SCIENCE on these positions, that is, religion, love, goodness, etc can be explained in an evolutionary sense. He says this, “All of these (scientific 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 serious consideration any source of knowledge outside of science.”
Further, he writes that a hard core materialist postion is not just a bad philsophical assumtion, but, it’s also bad science. Miller demonstrates this by talking about the difference between biological science and Quantum Physics. This chapter was just awesome for me, as I have been interested in Quantum theory for some time. Miller makes the ironclad case for evolution and asks an interesting question, “Science has shown the material mechanisms, not spirits, were behind the reality of nature. It has found that each level of analysis was connected to the ones above and below in the same way that the functions of a clock is connected to the gears and shafts and springs within. And it had given mankind a new view of ourselves as material beings. Could there be anything left for God to do?”
He points out that while this is true about evolutionary biology, it’s not true when it comes to Quantum Physics. He explains through exploring how light is both a particle AND a wave, something had been considered impossible before Einstein and Planck. And, no matter how hard we try, we can’t understand or know everything about a particle, because on the Quantum level, and quotes Heisenberg, “Can nature possibly be absurd as it seemed to us in these atmomic experiments?”
Miller writes, “One years after the discovery of quantum, we can say that the answer is yes, that is exactly what nature is like. At its very core, in the midst of matter and energy, the predictable causality that once formed the heart of classical physics breaks down…” and he continues later, “it is important to appreciate that uncertainties on the quantum level DO NOT (empahsis mine) arise because of a gap in our knowledge…. on the contrary, the more accurately we measure individual events, the clearer it becomes that the outcomes of events are indeterminate.”
This statement is important because Miller is showing why this is not the dreaded “God of the gaps” theory. Instead, it’s hard science showing us just how crazy the universe actually is and how science is showing we most likely will not be able to predict events as we can on a biological level. We can predict things to some degree and with some certainy, Miller argues, because Quantum is not chaos.
Miller argues this fact destroys hard core materialism as a philosophy. It’s unsupportable by science. Mike’s wonderful article on proof falls apart on certain basic level assumptions. While it can be supportable on certain levels, ie, Christianity makes historical claims that should be provable, science on the quantum level destroys the idea it can be a hard core assumption that all must bow before. And, Miller drives the nail home when he says, ” This is something biologists, almost universally, have not yet come to grips with. And it’s consequences are enormous….The true materialism of life is bound up in a series of inherently unpredictable events that science, even in principle, can never master completely. Life surely is explicable in terms of the laws of physics and chemsitry. However, the catch is, the laws themselves deny us an ultimate knowledge of what causes what and what happen next. ”
This gets to the heart of what I have been saying that the distinctions between natural and supernatural are not just unhelpful, they are patently false (thankfully, Mike’s article doesn’t do this). Further, they are not even Biblical. I cringe every time I hear Christians use those two words, as the Bible never really uses them. The Judeo-Christian view of the world sees the created order as things that are seen and unseen. Reality, as we know it, is much more complicated than viewing the world as supernatural or natural. It very well might be both. Miracles could be natural, and natural events could be miracles. A Christian position is that all of creation is both supernatural and natural. Such a position would be absurd, except for the fact is, it reflects reality as it is. God acts in natural and supernatural ways, it seems to us, but that’s not the way it seems to God. He acts in ways that are consistent with reality as it actually is, not what we percieve it to be.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m NOT saying the interactiong between biology and Quantum theory proves God exists. However, it does drive an emphatic nail in the coffin of hardcore materialism as a worldview. As Miller writes about Dawkins and other self assured scientific commentators, “Dawkin’s personal skepticism no more disproves the existence of God than the creationists’ incredulity is an argument against evolution. What matters is a straightforward, factual, strictly scientific recognition that matter in the universe behaves in such a way that we can never acheive 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 undertainties. That ought to allow for even the most critical scientist to admit that breaks in casuality at the atomic level make it fundemntally impossible to exclude the idea that we have really caught a glimpse of the mind of God.”
Further, what Christians don’t see is that they play right into the hands of hard atheists when they embrace ID or YEC. Instead, they need to understand how the Bible actually talks about the world, rather than trying to fight a culture war that is a waste of time, money and addressing more important questions.
Ah, I can hear the posts now…..