What’s Left for God to Do?
[In his long comment under my “Notice to First-Time Visitors” Wayne said, in part: “I am currently reading Finding Darwin’s God by Kenneth R. Miller. I highly recommend this book. He very astutely shows how evolution stands the test of time, but he also shows sensitivity to religion.”]
I like the thrust of the first passage you quote from Miller’s book, but I’m struck by how completely he contradicts it in the second quoted passage. It’s almost as if he changed his mind in the interval between writing them. He ends up in the same camp as the New Atheists he initially rebukes. Miller seems to say the New Atheists are wrong to proclaim, based on science, that there is no God, BUT “we are a practical species interested in getting results,” so they are right, after all. His second thought is weaker than his first, and there’s no logic in his reversal of position. Our being a practical species doesn’t mean God is a delusion.
In his latter passage he says, “Science works because it is based on causality.” I agree. Then he says, “We can exclude the spiritual as the immediate cause for any event in nature by showing how that event is determined in material terms.” I concede even that (accent on immediate cause), but with one exception. Science may explain every natural event, but it cannot answer the question, “Why does nature exist? Why is there a world – ‘something instead of nothing’?”
God’s Contribution to Science
The God I believe in created the universe to contain, in its structure and functioning, all the laws and forces that govern it. Those laws and forces produced nature’s greatest marvel, the human mind, capable of art, philosophy, and scientific inquiry. Divine intervention is not needed to explain why the seasons change, why volcanoes erupt, why earthquakes occur, why energy can change form while its quantity in a closed system remains constant (the First Law of Thermodynamics), or why time brings disorder to isolated systems (the Second Law of Thermodynamics). Those fall into the category of secondary causation, and science can explain them without reference to the transcendent.
A Trifle Scientists Overlook
Miller ends by asking rhetorically: “Could there be anything left for God to do?” I reply, “Yes. Create the universe!” Here the question is primary causation. In a recent posting I said this:
“Even if every gap were filled, every scientific question answered, the philosophical conundrum would remain: Do these explanations merely tell us how the Cosmic Intellect did its work, or do they explain God away? Where did the infinitely dense “singularity” come from, the “point of zero volume” that exploded with a Big Bang at the birth of the universe? The singularity caused the Big Bang, but what caused the singularity?
“A magic particle, smaller than an atom, that contained the whole universe. Did it simply spring into being, charged with potentiality so stupendous that all space and time, all matter and energy – all of natural and human history – were compressed in this invisible unmeasurable inexplicable seed? Is there a work of science fiction that rivals the imaginative genius of that plot premise? Are we to believe it had no Author?
Two Explanations: Take Your Pick
“Can you seriously ascribe it to chemical randomness or blind chance? And if you can, is that the best theory? Is it more likely that some arcane chemical quirk caused the singularity and its infinite consequences, or that an immense intellect conceived these wonders and had the power to make them real in time and space? A chemical quirk, or a dazzling intellect? Which better explains? (At moments like this, I confess, my agnosticism is shaken. But it will recover.)”
Those three paragraphs are from my essay The Greatest Scientific Mind, posted on 3/5/2010. I suggest you scroll down and read it to see the argument in context.