The Evolution of a Controversy

Article excerpt

FINDING DARWIN'S GOD: A SCIENTIST'S SEARCH FOR COMMON GROUND BETWEEN GOD AND EVOLUTION

By Kenneth Miller Cliff Street Books

When rumors of Charles Darwin's theory about the origin of species first began to circulate in British society during the mid- 19th century, one aghast gentleman pronounced: "Let us hope that it is not true. But if it is, let us hope that it does not become generally known!"

Evolution frightened the Victorians because of its apparent threat to religion - and it continues to trouble society to this day. Although Darwin's theory is accepted as fact by virtually all respected scientists, fewer than half of all Americans today believe that humans evolved from an earlier species.

If anything, recent events indicate that opposition to evolution may be on the rise: Last August, the Kansas School Board voted to remove evolution from the state's science curriculum. Oklahoman officials recently ordered that all state biology textbooks bear a disclaimer calling evolution "a controversial theory." And Kentucky's state education officials decided last month to eliminate the word "evolution" from the school curriculum, replacing it with the phrase "change over time."

Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology at Brown University in Providence, R.I., takes these attacks on evolution seriously and believes they call for a serious rebuttal. The first half of "Finding Darwin's God" addresses the various claims of the creationists, demonstrating why they are, in Miller's words, "bad science."

The second half of the book, however, is far more ambitious. After carefully establishing that evolution is scientifically true, Miller, a practicing Roman Catholic, attempts to demonstrate that it is also compatible with a belief in God - and that, in fact, it is "the key to understanding our relationship with God."

Miller's scientific arguments are compelling, presented in terms that any layman could understand. He's never condescending or dull. Particularly entertaining is his response to the creationists' view that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old.

One reason these early chapters are so convincing is that Miller actually has a certain amount of sympathy for his opponents. In a wonderful anecdote, he relates how several years ago he debated Henry Morris, the founder of the Institute for Creation Research, in Tampa, Fla. The following morning, he ran into Mr. …