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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2006
Miller's book is an attack on Creationism but not creation. He believes in God but not a God of the gaps or an Intelligent Designer (qua Behe/Irreducible Complexity). ...Indeed, Miller gives several examples of claimed irreducibly complex organisms the kind Intelligent Design advocates use and shows very convincingly, that they are actually reducible. He actually did the same thing in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District trial, demonstrating the reducibility of the Bacterial Flagellum, Michael Behe's favourite demonstrative organism, for claimed Irreducible Complexity.

Miller actually defends God not through scripture but ironically through Darwin's evolution. He attempts to show that one can be both an evolutionist and a theist.

My favourite chapter in this book has to be "The Road Back Home" ...I would happily give this book Five Stars for this chapter alone. For the none scientific amongst us and that includes me, this gives an excellent laymans rudimentary understanding of quantum mechanics. I never understood Einstein's comment "God doesn't play dice" until I read this chapter, now I get it, this is not the purpose of the chapter though, the purpose goes something like this: A light beam is a wave, which is deterministic as a wave, thus, a light wave hits a mirror and one can determine that the light will be reflected... However, light waves consist of particles called quanta... Because these particles act at the quantum level they do something rather strange. A percentage of the particles aren't reflected but actually pass through the mirror. Now it has been shown that this quantum behaviour is non-deterministic in that, the actually particles which pass through the mirror can never be predicted... Thus, at the quantum level "God does play dice".

This is where Miller gets very clever, he points out that creationists are so anti-evolution because it is completely deterministic and thus as a scientific theory can be reduced to fundamentals and so, leave no room for God, Miller demonstrates that this is not so. At the level of genes where genetic random mutations take place we approach the very small... At this level quantum behaviour takes over... It is this quantum behaviour that allows for random non-predictable mutations (which are of course what Darwin's natural selection act upon).

He also goes on to say that the creationists are shrinking the need for God because the shadows of unknown mysteries that they could use as an attack on science are shrinking. What Miller does is to say they are looking for God in the wrong place. Miller believes he has found a place for God, not a God of the gaps as claimed by creationists, such as those found in the fossil record... But rather, a god of the gaps at the quantum level.

Unlike Ken Miller I am an atheist, however... though I cannot find room for a supernatural God that can perform miracles, that would defy the laws of physics. I can look at the quantum level and at the most, agnostically think of the possibility of a quantum intelligence... Indeed, is that how our consciousness works at the quantum level. From that thought I can extrapolate at least the possibility of advanced conscious beings that would seem God like to us, but would have evolved through the same evolutionary processes as us. Would such evolved individuals be Gods of the universe and would their consciousness be found in gaps at the quantum level.

I would say following on from this... If quantum actions did not take place, then surely evolution could not take place ether, because randomness would not be possible. We would have to be a different kind of species, that was not evolved as part of a random proccess... By definition, we would be in a deterministic universe.

Whatever the ulimate answers, I can only call Ken Miller's book a brilliant achievement.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 30 August 2010
Having been thoroughly disappointed by "The Dawkins Delusion" I've been looking for a sensible counter to Dawkin's brilliant, if brash, book (The God Delusion) that in my view destroys teh concept of religion of any sort. The first 187 pages of Miller's book are a very well evidenced and at times humorous deconstruction of the nutty end of Christianity - the folks that believe the world was created a few years ago and that evolution is just a theory. While reading the first half I was aware that I was waiting for the chapter where the author would show his true colours. On page 188 he says "That may be fine for members of the intellectual elite, but if ordinary people were to discover that the ethical and moral principles derived from religion were nothing more than a convenient social fiction, all hell might break loose. They might behave as if anything were permitted, and society would come apart in a flash"

Oh dear. There are so many things wrong with this statement I don't know where to begin!

However after a few bumpy pages, Miller rescues himself a little with some very interesting thoughts on how quantum physics supports the idea of a God. I'm not convinced by his argument but this is an excellent, enjoyable and thought provoking read.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2008
Let me start by saying that both Christian and Atheist fundamentalists will HATE this book! This is a book that shows beyond doubt that religion and science need not be in conflict and the aims of one can be entirely compatable with the other. The fundamentalists on either side would much rather have us believe that having faith in God prevents you having faith in science and vice versa.

This is a book that is both entertaining and written so that it is understandable to those of us without any scientific training. Despite the fact that this book deals with some weighty subjects such as molecular biology, geology and particle physics, there is no point at which you think "this is too complicated for me" and yet you never feel he's talking down to you.

Miller shows that not only are the arguments of the creationists and the proponents of ID wrong, they are also incompatible with true belief - they impose human limits on God and the way He can act. He also shows that those scientists who try to claim that evolution and modern science has shown that God doesn't exist use similarly flawed reasoning.

Miller shows that science and religion can co-exist and more than that, that science shows us a God-created universe that is infinately more subtle, more complex and more fantastic than anything the "puff-of-smoke" creationists could ever envisage.

Forget Dawkins. If you are trully interested in the evolution/ religion debate read this. If you think the world is only 6000 years old - I wouldn't.
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on 9 October 2012
It's been a fair while since I've engaged much with the creationism-evolution wars as they can be pretty exasperating. While I favour good science over second-rate rhetoric, some of the pro-science writers I have read come across a little too strident and ungracious. So it was with some trepidation that I approached this book.

The book seems quite decidedly broken into two halves. The first 5 chapters are very much focused on biology. This section is a real page turner. Although the proof reader wasn't up to their job, as there numerous typos throughout, the writing style of the author shines through. Miller gives a stout defence of evolution, building very much on his expertise as a biology professor.

He looks at some of the schools of thought that are opposed to the acceptance of the evidence for evolution and provides a cutting critique into creationism and intelligent design. Along the way, we are given some great examples of how evolution has occurred throughout at the ages, and how the theory has developed, with some interesting pages on Stephen Jay Gould and the theory of punctuated equilibrium. Unlike some writers, Miller does not resort to name-calling or insulting those who object to evolution. Instead, he is quite gracious, doesn't disparage their intelligence and simply shows them why they are mistaken.

The pertinent question that is then asked by Miller is this: Why does evolution raise the hackles so much? Or rather, why do some choose to become creationists or ID advocates in the face of the evidence in favour of evolution? This marks a sea change in the tone of the book where Miller then steps away from strict biology and veers more into sociological and religious territory. His great expertise in the former is thus contrasted with his lesser expertise in the latter two, which, though interesting, do not make for as good a reading as the first half of the book.

Having drawn out and exposed the fallacy that a correct understanding of evolutionary biology would necessarily entail an atheistic outlook on life, Miller spends the rest of the book giving his reasons for why he thinks that not only is evolution perfectly compatible with a belief in God, but that his understanding of God fits particularly well with evolutionary understanding, rather than being something dissonant which requires a lot of reconciliation.

The 2nd half of the book does drag on a little bit. I hadn't expected this from the early chapters, but by the end I was really just wanting to get it finished, as there was little being added by way of meaningful discourse.

Those final criticisms stated, they are relatively minor in light of the book as a whole. As an antidote to creationism/ID it is scientifically acute, gracious and incisive. As for being an apologetic work for christianity, it is fair, but doesn't quite the mustard. But it still well worth reading.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 September 2010
Firstly, I am pleased that a professing Christian and a cell biologist has come out of the woodwork and given us his thoughts on evolution, I wish that more would do so. I am fed up with atheistic propagandists like Dawkins telling us what to believe.

The first half of the book is really an apologetic for evolution and Miller clearly believes in evolution and he quite happily commits the scientific blunder of extrapolating from micro-evolution, which is observable, to macro-evolution, which is not. Macro-evolution is a one off event and has to be studied using a forensic approach, while micro-evolution, which is repeatable, can be studied by empirical science. He first pulls apart the arguments of the young earth creationists (I like it). He then criticises Phillip E Johnson for believing that God created each and every species, but this is the doctrine of the 'fixity of the species' held in 1850 and which no modern creationist would hold now. He creates a straw man and then ridicules it.

Then he turns his gun at Behe, who is raising the old Design argument formulated by Paley but in new terminology and which Miller clearly despises. Behe's argument is that there are molecular structures with irreducible complexity, they need all the parts to work, and there is no evolutionary route to obtain these structures by small steps, since there is nothing for natural selection to work on a non-functioning structure. However, if there is a partially functioning structure then natural selection does have something to work on and a better functioning structure is possible, the prime example that Miller gives is blood clotting. Miller then proceeds with macroscopic examples of the evolution of the eye and Bats sonar detection system but without going into much detail. Both of these are theoretically possible to have evolved through small steps, again he assumes that macro-evolution is true and neither example is irreducibly complex or at the molecular level which is the subject of Behe's book. He then trots out the evolutionist's Just-so story about the mammalian ear evolving from the reptile lower jaw. He then proceeds to the 9-2 structure of the cilium and shows that there are various other arrangements of cilium, but they are all functioning cilium and this does not refute Behe's point, it does show that there are simple and complex cilium. Behe should have used the simplest cilium for his example instead of a more complex but common one. Since Behe's book was published in 1996 there have advances in the study of molecular micro-evolution which Miller describes, but most of these do not involve irreducibly complex systems, metabolic pathways are not irreducibly complex. Miller also shows that the complexity of the blood clotting mechanism, which Behe says is irreducibly complex, could be produced through successive stages. Miller also demonstrates that Behe's hypothesis that the original first 'Designed' cell had all its future complexity coded genetically but turned off was doomed to failure because of the accumulation of errors in unexpressed genes. Overall I would give a partial victory to Miller, but he does not manage to dismantle the challenge of irreducible complexity simply by giving examples of the generation of more complex systems from simple systems. Behe clearly needs to update his book and to produce clearer examples of irreducible complexity. Behe has answered Miller's criticism on the web.

At a theological level he makes some good points, he rightly warns us about making God, the god of the gaps. We should expect that science will reveal how such complex mechanisms such as embryonic development, metamorphosis and the brain work, this is because God has already put in place the mechanisms to make it work without supernatural intervention. However it does not necessarily follow that we should expect to see completely naturalistic explanations for our origins unless you are committed to the doctrine of naturalism. Miller believes that the gaps in our knowledge should decrease based on his faith in naturalism. He says that we believe that God is sovereign now while still governing the universe through the laws of nature. This is true, but he also fails to mention that God has used miracles since the creation. He fails to take into account the fact that God has finished his work of creating and that he now upholds the universe using the laws of science as a mechanism. Miller wishes to continue using those same laws to create the universe as well, assuming that God's method of sustaining is the same as his creating, now this may be true, but he should have at least referred to the biblical data.

He rightly points out that some people have taken evolution from its biological domain, and extended it to areas where it has no place. The public has not accepted the theory of evolution because it has been used by atheists to show that life is futile, something that we do not believe is true. Dawkins may delight in the seeming purposeless of life, while he gets a decent paycheck for saying so. He maybe be content with his 'mess of pottage', but that is a concept that the rest of us, who also sometimes struggle with an apparently meaningless life, find repugnant to our inner nature which tells us that there is meaning to the life we live. We should also note that the sovereignty of God means that God can even use chance to his own ends, God not only plays dice he determines the outcome, unfortunately Miller did not make this point.

Certainly worth a read for its thought provoking account of micro-evolution, but look elsewhere for theologically satisfying answers.

[Review originally written in about 2000 on my website (now defunked), then added to in 2006, I thought that it might be worth posting on in 2010 as my interest in the topic has recently been rekindled after watching Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed [DVD] [2008]]
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on 5 November 2012
This book deals in depth with many of the criticisms of evolution, such as you find in the writings of exponenents of Intelligent Design. In particular, his analysis of "irreducible complexity" - the basis of Michale Behe's "Darwin's Black Box" is excellent - he shows observable nature demonstrates Behe's argument to be false. Although some of the arguments are fairly technical, it is still easy to read.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2007
Who might benefit from reading this book? The answer may surprise you.

If you are a conservative Christian, this book might help you understand why creationism and intelligent design are not scientific. It won't assuage your concerns about the influence of atheists in society but you might feel better to know there are Christians such as Dr. Miller who can champion evolution without falling into the hazards of materialism such as a sense of purposelessness or a lack of moral standards.

If you are a moderate or liberal Christian, you might learn more about evolution and how to explain to conservative Christians that creationism and intelligent design are not science, as well as more about what evolution is. You might feel comforted to know that God could have created a world in which evolution operates and can be studied scientifically.

If you are consider yourself an agnostic, atheist, or secular humanist, you might also learn more about evolution, what it is and is not. You might feel comforted to know that Dr. Miller is convincing Christians that evolution doesn't conflict with the beliefs of moderate or liberal Christians and that even conservative Christians can feel a little more at ease knowing that good Christians like Dr Miller might teach their children rather than atheists.

If you are a Buddhist or Hindu, you might be glad to learn more about evolution and the odd battles that Christians fight in the schools and courts about it, but you may also feel slighted that Dr. Miller focuses on the 3 major Western religions in this book. Well, it is called "Finding Darwin's God" so you probably shouldn't feel too surprised. Indeed Miller begins the book by sharing from his early religious training:

'Question: "Who made us?"
Answer: "God made us."'

Had the answer been:

Answer: We don't know.


Answer: Don't waste time wondering, focus on being good to others.

then Dr. Miller and other Westerners may never have gone done the path they did and we might have all avoided the current problems introduced by a belief in God. Virgin birth, the ruthlessness of natural selection as not necessarily being so bad, that God might hear our prayers, that it all finally can make sense if due to God's grace, all might become "meaningful" by possible appeals to a God who can do anything because, well of course, He is God and just happens to be the God of the Bible. What I'm grateful for is that, whatever Dr. Miller believes or thinks other Christians do, he has taken actions to help keep science classes free of religion.

One place I'd recommend to turn for the kinds of questions about purpose that Dr. Miller raises is Jiddu Krishnamurti's
Freedom from the Known
which acknowledges something special about life without stepping into beliefs that might bind one to the authority of any organized religion.
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on 23 October 2015
It is an excellent book but it is more for my grand children than for me. Most of the arguments, while very valid are rather of the kindergarten style. I shall try to read other books by the same author to see if it was a purposefully oversimplified vulgarization
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on 28 October 2014
It helped to answer many questions that were on my mind, and altered my thinking on evolution. A very well presented book looking at all the issues around evolution in a logical way. I shall recommend this book to both christian and non christian friends.
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on 26 April 2013
As a non-scientist, I found some of Ken Miller's scientific arguments in favour of evolution quite challenging at times, but he is a brilliant explicator and shows clearly that faith and science can quite easily co-exist
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