Joined: Mar. 2007
On her blog, FTK reproduces a diatribe by John West that was originally posted over on EN&V. The post is full of outright distortions and misrepresentations, but I was particularly amazed by West's use of this quote from Ken Miller's Finding Darwin's God:
|Even the theists among evolution proponents tend to be less friendly to traditional religion than one might think. Biologist Kenneth Miller, who is usually cited as a traditional Roman Catholic by the news media, insists that evolution is an "undirected" process and that the development of human beings was "an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out."|
The full context of the quote reveals (surprise!) that West is not accurately describing Miller's viewpoint.
|So, what if the comet had missed? What if our ancestors, and not dinosaurs, had been the ones driven to extinction? What if, during the Devonian period, the small tribe of fish known as rhipidistians had been obliterated? Vanishing with them would have been the possibility of life for the first tetrapods. Vertebrates might never have struggled onto the land, leaving it, in Gould's words, forever "the unchallenged domain of insects and flowers."|
Surely this means that mankind's appearance on this planet was not pre-ordained, that we are here not as the products of an inevitable procession of evolutionary success, but as an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out. What follows from this, to skeptic and true believer alike, is a conclusion whose logic is rarely challenged - that no God would ever have used such a process to fashion his prize creatures. How could he have been sure that leaving the job to evolution would lead things to working out the "right" way? If it was God's will to produce us, then by showing that we are the products of evolution, we would rule God as Creator. Therein lies the value or the danger of evolution.
Not so fast. The biological account of lucky historical contingencies that led to our own appearance on this planet is surely accurate. What does not follow is that a perceived lack of inevitability translates into something that we should regard as incompatibility with a divine will. To do so seriously underestimates God, even as this God is understood by the most conventional of Western religions.
Yes, the explosive diversification of life on this planet was an unpredictable process. But so were the rise of Western civilization, the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the winning number in last night's lottery. We do not regard the indeterminate nature of any of these events in human history as antithetical to the existence of a Creator; why should we regard similar events in natural history any differently? There is, I would submit, no reason at all. If we can view the contingent events in the families that produced our individual lives as consistent with a Creator, then certainly we can do the same for the chain of circumstances that produced our species.
The alternative is a world where all events have predictable outcomes, where the future is open neither to chance nor to independent human action. A world in which we would always evolve is a world in which we would never be free. To a believer, the particular history leading to us shows how truly remarkable we are, how rare is the gift of consciousness, and how precious is the chance to understand.
Have you read Ken Miller's book, FTK?
Do you think that West has done justice to Miller's viewpoint?