International Society for Science & Religion - Library Project

Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground between God and Evolution

by Kenneth R. Miller

Introductory Essay by Michael Ruse

This is a deeply informed, beautifully written, and moving critique of so-called “Intelligent Design Theory (IDT),” the claim that aspects of the biological world are so intricate – “irreducibly complex” – that they cannot be explained in any natural fashion, including by the Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection. Hence, the claim is that such intricate phenomena must have been the direct result of an intervention by an intelligence, a “designer.”

Kenneth R. Miller, one of the best-known writers of biology textbooks for high school and university students, brings a detailed and sensitive understanding of biological fact and theory to bear on IDT, showing that the chief examples promoted in its favor offer no support at all for the supposed need of an intervening, creative intelligence. To the contrary, they support overwhelmingly the naturalistic approach to organisms, one where unbroken law can account for everything.

Outstanding is Miller’s discussion of one of the jewels in the crown of IDT, the blood-clotting cascade. When you cut yourself, the blood starts to flow but, on exposure to the air, soon clots and you bleed no more. There is an obvious adaptive value to this. Exceptions to the rule, people with hemophilia like many of Queen Victoria’s offspring, have very poor health and limited lifespans. The mechanism that leads to clotting turns out to be quite complicated, requiring nearly thirty molecular moves, sequentially. (This is the reason why it is known as a “cascade.”)  Supporters of IDT, notably biochemist Michael Behe in his book Darwin’s Black Box, argue that it is altogether too complex to have been produced by natural selection and hence is evidence of a designer.

Miller shows in clear language that Behe’s claim is simply not substantiated.  Drawing on both biochemistry and evolutionary theory, we learn that the separate moves in the cascade are extensions and modifications of earlier, more basic patterns, and we are led through the animal world to see that there are older, primitive forms of the cascade, that have now grown more sophisticated in mammals like us humans. Miller also stresses how natural selection can and does guide this process, so showing that everything was entirely naturally produced.

What makes Miller’s critique so powerful is that, recognizing that the IDT position is  motivated by a desire to replace modern science by a form of Christianity – the designer is obviously the God of the Bible read rather conservatively – he himself writes as a believer, as a practicing Roman Catholic. The second half of the book, therefore, turns to more theological issues as Miller tries to show why preferring an explanation in terms of law is indeed more true to the Christian vision than one always demanding that God intervene in His creation. Hence the book is as much a critique of the New Atheists as of the IDT supporters, as Miller shows that it is possible to accept modern science and yet be a person of deep religious commitment. The God whose continuous miracle is evolution is a greater God than He who has to keep interfering because His life-sustaining processes cannot do the job on their own.