Saturday, January 17, 2009

Miller’s Clear Contribution II: Providing a positive case/evidence for a personal God

In his book, Miller makes two clean/clear contributions: he blows up both extremes in the debate—and encourages people to see science as providing positive evidence for the existence of a personal God. I’ll handle the second point here.

In sum, although atheists have claimed that evolution allows them to be intellectually fulfilled, Miller asks intellectually-honest atheists to consider some of the findings of modern science.

Miller opens chapter 7 with idolatry’s loss of territory to science—indirectly and perhaps ironically through the general promotion of science by Christian theology and practice. Given “the Big Bang” and the “Anthropic Principle”, believers in the power of Evolution can easily embrace a Deistic God.

But the biggest value-added for me in reading Miller’s book: with the change from the certainty and determinism of classic physics to the uncertainties of quantum physics, it’s far easier, scientifically, to believe in an active God who can intervene (p. 198-204a). Some excerpts:

…science’s ultimate goal, complete knowledge, will never—indeed, can never—be realized for even the smallest of nature’s individual parts…the classic science-vs.-religion mentality we still encounter took shape within a 19th century mindset that saw any advance in scientific understanding as a threat per se to the idea of God. At one time, that might have made sense. Had Darwinism prevailed in a strictly Newtonian world… (p. 210)

Mutation and variation are inherently unpredictable means that the course of evolution is too. In other words, evolutionary history can turn on a very, very small dime—the quantum state of a single subatomic particle. (p. 207)

The core assumptions supporting the “scientific” disbelief of the absolute materialist are wrong, even by the terms of science itself. (p. 209)

We need not ask if the nature of quantum physics proves the existence of a Supreme Being, which it certainly does not. [But] Quantum physics does allow for it in an interesting way, and certainly excludes the possibility that we will ever gain a complete understanding of the details of nature. (p. 213)

Sadly, few theologians appreciate the degree to which physics has rescued religion from the dangers of Newtonian predictability. I suspect that they do not know (at least not yet) who their true friends are! (p. 204b)

Three other observations:

For believers, Miller notes the ease with which Christians believe that God has intervened throughout human history. Why not within biological history as well?

Miller cites Augustine’s pro-evolution (and old earth) views of origins and development (p. 255-258).

And Miller describes why confidence in the evolutionary mechanism should inspire more marvel in the power and creativity of God. He relates a story of a professor at a presentation who fields a question with this reply:

If you deny evolution, then the sort of God you have in mind is a bit like a pool player who can sink 15 balls in a row…by taking 15 separate shots. My God plays the game a little differently. He walks up to the table, takes just one shot, and sinks all the balls. I ask you which pool player, which God, is more worthy of praise and worship. (p. 283-284)

Miller’s punchline here:

By any reasonable analysis, evolution does nothing to distance or weaken the power of God. We already know that we live in a world of natural causes, explicable by the workings of natural law…A God who presides over an evolutionary process is not an impotent, passive observer. Rather, He is one whose genius fashioned a fruitful world in which the process of continuing creation is woven into the fabric of matter itself. He retains the freedom to act, to reveal Himself to His creatures…He is the master of chance and time, whose actions, both powerful and subtle, respect the independence of His creation and give human beings the genuine freedom to accept or to reject His love. (p. 243)

Preach it, brother!


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