Why No God Cares If Ken Miller Has Free Will

Gregory Paul

The Human Instinct, by Kenneth Miller (Simon and Schuster, 2017, ISBN 978-1476790268). 304 pp. Hardcover, $26.00.


Although Kenneth Miller, a pro-evolution cell and molecular biologist, is within the modern liberal, science-friendly wing of Roman Catholics, in the end he is a creationist in the sense that he believes there really is a supernatural creator deity. As such Miller had been working to reconcile the speculative existence of the Catholic god with the natural origin of his special creation, Homo sapiens. In The Human Instinct, Miller focuses on the alleged presence of human free will, which unlike our having at least some reason and especially consciousness, is a matter of major dispute. In doing so, Miller does what theists frequently do: he compartmentalizes the subject in a way that makes the critical contradictions within the proposition that a good and fair creator exists less obvious. In particular, Miller is prone to claiming that he addresses deity-related subjects as a scientist rather than from a theological perspective, even though his arguments often have important theological implications that badly need addressing to assess the big picture.

I am not going to engage in a detailed discussion on the non/reality of free will. As interesting and ultimately important as the question is, my provisional opinion is that the data are not yet sufficient to answer the question. That said, if we do have free will, it is not all that much to write home about. We are all so tied up by assorted compulsions and addictions of genetic and experiential origin regarding desires, fears, and needs. It’s not much of a gift from a creator.

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