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The Miracle of Man

The Fine Tuning of Nature for Human ExistenceMichael Denton

For years, leading scientists and science popularizers have insisted humans are nothing special in the cosmic scheme of things. In this important and provocative new book, renowned biologist Michael Denton argues otherwise. According to Denton, the cosmos is stunningly fit not just for cellular life, not just for carbon-based animal life, and not even just for air-breathing animals, but especially for bipedal, land-roving, technology-pursuing creatures of our general physiological design. In short, the cosmos is specifically fit for creatures like us. Drawing on discoveries from a myriad of scientific fields, Denton masterfully documents how contemporary science has revived humanity’s special place in nature. “The human person as revealed by modern science is no contingent assemblage of elements, an irrelevant afterthought of cosmic evolution,” Denton writes. “Rather, our destiny was inscribed in the light of stars and the properties of atoms since the beginning. Now we know that all nature sings the song of man. Our seeming exile from nature is over. We now know what the medieval scholars only believed, that the underlying rationality of nature is indeed ‘manifest in human flesh.’ And with this revelation the… delusion of humankind’s irrelevance on the cosmic stage has been revoked.”

Advance Praise

While there is a general awareness of the fine tuning of the various laws and constants of physics rendering our planetary home particularly well suited for intelligent life, Michael Denton describes an additional astonishing array of qualities demonstrating prior fitness for complex carbon-based, high-energy, metabolically efficient life that takes the fine tuning in a different direction and to an exceptional degree. He cleverly describes the amazing fitness of oxygen, nitrogen, and water in both the hydrological cycle and in the respiratory and circulatory system. He highlights some surprising and intriguing observations, such as the relationship between the tension in small blood vessels and their ability to withstand relatively high hydrostatic pressures courtesy of the counterintuitive characteristics of the law of Laplace. Denton describes not just amazing and specific adaptations but the surprising prior fitness of basic physics and chemistry, a peculiar challenge to any naturalistic explanation and reminiscent of remarkable foresight. Teleology is evident everywhere you look.

David Galloway, MD DSc FRCS FRCP FACS FACP; former President, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow; Honorary Professor of Surgery, College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow

Every important realm of science is worthy of continuing reevaluation. The idea that a field of inquiry is “settled science” and therefore must be excluded from scientific challenge is detrimental to science. In this spirit, I am happy to recommend Michael Denton’s The Miracle of Man. While many science books on origins focus on the question of biological evolution, others on the first cell, and others still on fine tuning in physics and the birth of the universe, Denton’s latest is refreshing in the attention it pays to the astonishing degree of fitness for advanced life manifest in chemistry. Forty-five years ago, my dear friend and Berkeley colleague, the late Phil Johnson (then on sabbatical in London), quizzed me on Denton’s 1985 book. I enjoyed it and encouraged him to address his powerful intellect to analyze Denton’s book. Phil’s study of the Denton book was perhaps the first step in the development of the intelligent design movement.

Henry F. Schaefer III, PhD, Graham Perdue Professor of Chemistry and Director of the Center for Computational Chemistry at the University of Georgia; Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

“Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving.” Thus wrote the philosopher Bertrand Russell in perhaps the most spectacularly wrong-headed pronouncement of the twentieth century. Au contraire, in The Miracle of Man, Michael Denton gathers the voluminous evidence of modern science that shows the exact opposite: the universe precisely embodies the end for which it was built.

Michael Behe, PhD, Professor of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University; author of Darwin’s Black Box, The Edge of Evolution, and Darwin Devolves

If Lawrence Henderson’s 1913 classic The Fitness of the Environment was volume 1, then Denton’s 1998 Nature’s Destiny should be considered volume 2. If one thinks that Denton completed the series with that work, one would be mistaken. In my opinion The Miracle of Man earns a well-deserved status as volume 3. Denton provides significant new examples of nature’s prior fitness for mankind to support his anthropocentric thesis.

Guillermo Gonzalez, PhD, astronomer, astrobiologist, and co-author of The Privileged Planet

In his new book Michael Denton contributes a highly original new approach to the teleological design argument. Previous approaches either focused on evidence for design in the unlikely conditions of the physical constants and laws of the universe or on unlikely complex phenomena in biology. Here Denton shows that the intricate properties of light, carbon, water, air, fire, and metals all are contributing to a unique prior environmental fitness of nature for human biology, which suggests that the universe is not just fine tuned for any life but was specifically designed for us and our cultural and technological development. Indeed, Denton provides powerful scientific evidence for theism and anthropocentric human exceptionalism that are at the core of the Judeo-Christian worldview. We are not insignificant accidents of nature and not the cosmic orphan. Denton provides the scientific underpinning for a theistic real humanism far beyond the nihilistic implications of so-called secular humanism. This book deserves to become a game changer that will spark a new enlightenment and re-enchantment of the cosmos in the twenty-first century.

Günter Bechly, PhD in paleontology, Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen; Scientific Curator from 1999-2016 at the State Museum of Natural History in Stuttgart, Germany; Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture

Michael Denton’s The Miracle of Man is a tour de force and should feature prominently in future debates on whether humans are here on Earth by accident, as Darwinian materialism holds. This book makes clear the question is now settled, and the answer is no. We are no accident. Here is a medical doctor and biochemistry PhD with a breadth of knowledge stretching from physiology and chemistry to physics and anatomy. He cites an incredible number of well-established facts that show that Earth along with physics and chemistry were a perfect fit for human beings. Numerous facets are finely tuned and exacting, like an exquisite, fine glove that fits perfectly, a glove with a million plus fingers of all shapes, sizes, and textures. This is beyond coincidental. I like the Yogi Berra quote here: “That’s too coincidental to be a coincidence.”

Geoffrey Simmons, MD, former Governor of the American Academy of Disaster Medicine (AADM), and author of What Darwin Didn’t Know and Billions of Missing Links

The Miracle of Man is a masterful summation of Michael Denton’s work. For the last several years he has been making the case that nature is uniquely suited—prepared in advance, as it were—to permit creatures with our physical characteristics to exist. This book brings it all together: If the characteristics of light, the sun, water, oxygen, and carbon were not precisely as they are, we would not exist. If our atmosphere were different, or our planet’s location and composition, life as we know it could not exist. This may seem a trivial argument, but it is not. Rather than say that “hey, we are suited for the environment because we are adapted to it,” we must also admit that, seen from the other side, the precise chemical properties of the elements, formed in the fires of creation, were pre-adapted to permit creatures like us—air-breathing, high energy, bipedal and terrestrial, with our basic physiology. The very chemistry of life seems to have been designed for us! Read this book if this hypothesis sounds absurd or trivial—the weight of the evidence may change your mind.

Ann Gauger, PhD, biologist, Senior Fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, and co-author of Science and Human Origins

In this amazing book, Dr. Michael Denton shows scientifically that nature is remarkably fit for life. Not just for life in general, but for us in particular. He describes many “ensembles of fitness” that work together to support human life and technology. The result is awe-inspiring.

Jonathan Wells, PhD, biologist, Senior Fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, and author of Icons of Evolution, The Myth of Junk DNA, and Zombie Science

Michael Denton’s singular achievement is to integrate the vast corpus of scientific knowledge of human physiology into a readily comprehensible coherent narrative. Along the way he reveals our existence to be a “natural miracle,” governed by nature’s immutable laws of the physics and chemistry of the elements of which we are made but whose combination together—and fine tuning for their purpose—lies so far beyond the realms of chance they might be termed miraculous. A powerful testimony to there being more than we can know.

James Le Fanu, FRCP, physician and author of Why Us?: How Science Rediscovered the Mystery of Ourselves

Some years ago, Michael Denton and I stood in the surf of one of California’s spectacular beaches. I asked him, “Do you suppose the salinity levels of the earth’s oceans are calibrated to foster an environment specially fit for human habitation?” “Let me look into it,” he said. A few weeks later, he wrote in reply that there is indeed evidence that oceanic salinity matters to conditions for human existence and flourishing.

After reading this survey of natural history, which prepares the way for natural theology, you’ll understand why I trust Michael Denton for answers to this sort of question. And you’ll wonder why today’s scientists are so slow to acknowledge that our terrestrial environment is exquisitely fine tuned. (Denton has wise things to say about that, as well.)

Michael Denton has compiled a resume of stunning elements in the total ensemble of fitness, and shown how the significance of each is even greater in the aggregate than it is in isolation. All of this stands ready to be observed, understood, and used by us, so the natural world and the built world are seamlessly integrated through a cognitive process exploited by humans. We can be grateful for Denton’s wide-ranging curiosity and for his technical skill, both as a highly versatile scientist and as a remarkably accessible writer. The Miracle of Man is a stunning achievement and a wonderful capstone to his life’s work.

R. Douglas Geivett, Professor of Philosophy, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University

In this marvelous book, Dr. Denton completes an epic journey through a stunning landscape of scientific discovery to arrive at the grand finale: nature’s startling fitness for humankind. There are the fundamental particles that constitute our bodies—from carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen to various metal elements—each finely tuned to serve very precise biological functions. There is that supernaturally fine-tuned molecule of life, water, whose suite of unique properties allows it to sustain life’s biochemistry and also drive the life-essential hydrological cycle. There is carbon dioxide, which warms our planet and serves indispensably in the respiratory and circulatory systems. There are the crucial atmospheric gases, including O3, for filtering sunlight to protect us; lightning that allows nitrogen to react with oxygen to form our proteins; and much more.

The book also touches on the wonders of the cell, and of blood and its masterpiece of a molecule, hemoglobin. Denton looks at fire and the exquisite fine tuning of the laws of physics. All of these serve man unusually well and, to my mind, suggest a miracle and more than a miracle—an intelligent mind who very much had us in mind when the cosmos came into being. That is, the universe was designed to conspire in our favor.

The Miracle of Man is a comprehensive and most convicting review of the relevant data, a survey urging any reasonable person to consider that we humans were foreseen, were planned from the beginning. The author does not insist on such a conclusion, and some of his readers may choose not to go there, but Denton’s powerful new volume makes one thing undeniably clear: the data has delivered its verdict—nature is arrestingly fit for man. We are indeed, a most privileged species.

Marcos Eberlin, PhD, member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, former President of the International Mass Spectrometry Foundation, founder of the Thomson Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, winner of the prestigious Thomson Medal (2016), and author of Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose

Denton backs his staggering claim that the universe is “uniquely fit” for us with a staggering weight of evidence. The search for strange forms of intelligent life elsewhere can stop now. If we find our equals somewhere else in the universe, they will have to be very much like us.

Douglas Axe, Maxwell Professor of Molecular Biology at Biola University, and author of Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed

Denton’s marvelous gift for seeing things from multiple perspectives, including counterintuitive ones, is brilliantly manifest in this astonishing book. He describes nature as a preordained symphony playing out in sunlight, air and water, the music uniquely resonating as intelligent carbon-based beings. The detail and originality are awesome. The writing is laced with fascinating quotes from classic and modern sources. A typical writing gem is his inimitable and humorous treatment of what makes human dimensions roughly optimal. The book powerfully supports his claim that the intricacy, interconnectedness, and mutual suitability of the constituents of the cosmos show it is beautifully fit for the existence of beings such as us.

John C. Walton, FRSE, Professor, University of St. Andrews, EaStCHEM School of Chemistry

I have admired Michael Denton ever since reading Evolution: A Theory in Crisis—a book that afforded me the sense that its author had managed to say what I had only meant to say. Had the book been any longer, I might have never said anything at all. But that was then. I have in reading every one of Denton’s books encountered a very commendable theoretical biologist and a daring, and often rhapsodic, natural philosopher. It is an unusual combination. The Miracle of Man is more of the same, but much more than the same. Read it and see.

David Berlinski, philosopher, mathematician, and author of The Deniable Darwin, The Devil’s Delusion, A Tour of the Calculus, and Human Nature

Excerpts

Table of Contents

“How We Moved Beyond Darwin to the Miracle of Man”

Videos

Michael Denton

Senior Fellow, the Center for Science & Culture and the Center on Human Exceptionalism
Michael Denton holds an M.D. from Bristol University, as well as a Ph.D. in biochemistry from King’s College in London. A Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, Denton has had a critical impact on the debate over Darwinian evolution.