First, commenting on my MIRM-definition,
>> Matter in Random Motion (MIRM): If an event occurs with everything
>> (for every particle) happening according to the probabilities
>> predicted by Quantum Mechanics (QM).
> I.e., matter behaving in accord with the laws of QM. Of course
>it then has a strong aspect of randomness but this is not total, or
>else we wouldn't speak of laws.
Yes; I was referring to a "random choice" within the probability
distributions (which are "statistical laws") described by QM.
Next, commenting on my TA-definition
>> Theistic Action (TA): If God is somehow active in changing "what would
>> have happened, according to MIRM" into "what actually happens."
> What would have happened if what? QM doesn't prescribe unique
>outcomes for processes, so even if God limits himself to operating in
>accord with physical laws, God has some choice in what happens.
Yes, God "has some choice in what happens", and QM provides a possible
mechanism for theistic action (TA) that does not "violate" any natural laws
of the universe. God could determine the outcome for an individual
quantum-event (by selecting which of the potential outcomes actually
occurs) or for a "related set" of Q-events. (more about this later)
George asks an important question: "What would have happened if what?"
How can we think in terms of "what would have happened" if each of the
possible outcomes is possible, because whatever happens is predicted by QM
(at some level of probability), and is thus "natural" according to QM.
In examining this question, it is useful to do thought-experiments,
beginning (because it's easier) with one that I claim can distinguish
between MIRM and Miraculous-Appearing Theistic Action (MATA).
Imagine a "Schrodinger's Cat" experiment where the cat lives if a photon
passes through a symmetric double-slit experiment and the photon strikes
the wall above the center-line, but it dies if the photon hits the bottom
half of the wall. We test the symmetry by sending photons thru, one by
one, and (as predicted by QM) 50% of the photons strike the top half and
50% strike the bottom half. It's "even odds" for the cat.
Now we run the experiment with the cat's life on the line; the photon
hits the top, so the cat lives. But the experimenter is a sadistic
cat-hater who runs the experiment again; as before, the photon hits the
top. Not satisfied, the photon is sent thru again and again, but each time
it hits the top so the cat lives. After a hundred unsuccessful runs (with
the cat still alive) the cat-killing mechanism is removed, and the next
photon hits the bottom half; the second hits the top, and so on, with the
overall results being the 50-50 mix predicted by QM.
What should we conclude? The odds of cat-survival, predicted by QM, are
1 in 2-to-the-100th power, or 1 in 10-to-the-30th power; essentially, the
possibility of the cat being alive, based on "natural law with MIRM", is
almost zero. One possible eplanation is that, despite the odds, it was
MIRM, and the cat just got lucky. Another possible explanation (but not
the only alternative, of course) is TA -- that God wanted the cat to live,
so he controlled the quantum-events to accomplish his will. If TA did
occur (ontology), most of us would classify it (epistemology) as
miraculous-appearing TA (MATA), not normal-appearing TA (NATA).
But before and after the cat's at-risk trials, the results appear to be
natural, as predicted by QM, and as we expect. We might classify this
(epistemology) as either NATA or MIRM, depending on subjective choices,
whether or not it really (ontology) did involve TA (and thus was NATA) or
did not involve TA (and thus was MIRM).
I apologize for switching from Smooth-appearing or Smoothly-blending
[and SATA or SBTA] to normal-appearing [and NATA], but I think most of us
will more easily think about "miraculous vs normal" than "miraculous vs
smooth"; and instead of "smoothly blending" I like to use "appearance"
because this emphasizes that the choice of prefix is a human choice based
on perceptions and interpretations, rather than a theory that claims to
have 100%-certain knowledge about reality.
note: NATA could also represent "Natural-Appearing TA", but there may
(or may not) be reasons to avoid the use of "natural". This avoidance is
the topic of another thread I'm starting, "naturalism or materialism?"
A second thought-experiment:
Imagine that Peter and John meet a lame beggar, and say "in the name of
Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk," and "instantly the man's feet and ankles
become strong" and he "went with them ... walking and jumping, and praising
According to QM-and-MIRM, this event should not have happened. One
explanation is that, despite the improbability, it did occur due to MIRM.
Another theory is psychosomatic healing. Another theory is MATA; if the
the beggar was "praising God," evidently his theory was MATA. And I think
this is what Luke wanted us to conclude, when he wrote Acts 3.
A mechanism for this MATA? Our imaginary cat survived due to a series
of SEQUENTIAL quantum-events (top, top, top,...); each of these q-events is
compatible with QM (no miracle-claims justified) but when the entire
sequence is considered a claim of "miracle" may be justified. Maybe the
beggar was healed by a series of SIMULTANEOUS quantum-events, each event
compatible with natural law, whose overall effect is a claim (as implied by
the beggar's praise, and in the response of others described in Acts 3-4)
of miraculous theistic action.
A third thought-experiment:
Imagine a physical battle (with Israelites vs Amalekites) in which the
winner is determined by the prayers of a non-combatant (Moses, up on the
hill with arms outstretched). Possible theories include MIRM (it's just a
series of natural coincidences) or NATA.
During this "extended event" no natural laws were violated, yet there is
a strong implication by Moses (in Exodus 17) that we should interpret this
as TA. Contrast this suggestion, by Moses, with recent suggestions that we
should make no distinction between NATA and MIRM (if there is no way to
distinguish them based on empirical evidence) or that "everything is TA" so
NATA is not a useful concept.
If Luke (Acts 3) and Moses (Exodus 17) encourage us to believe in
explicit personally-customized theistic action that can be distinguished
from "the usual way things happen," then maybe TA is a useful concept.
Maybe, too, it can be useful to think about TA in terms of a CONTINUUM
between "miraculous-appearing" (as in Acts 3, or in the resurrection of
Jesus, or...) and "normal-appearing" (as in most provisions for mental and
emotional support, as described in my TD#3). In-between there are cases,
such as Joshua/Moses in Exodus 17, where an event appears to be miraculous
even though no physical laws seem to be violated.
Therefore, when Allan says,
>I'm not sure any
>useful distinction, even ontological, remains between MIRM and your
>"Smoothly Blending Theistic Action." Again I'd raise the question of
>what category thunder and lightning are in, and whether there is any
>reason to insist (or even expect) that the evolution of life must be in a
>I'd also add that "random" is the sort of word that can muddy the waters,
>as evidenced by its frequent misuse in caricatures of evolutionary theory
>and also the danger of going onto tangents on interpretation of quantum
>mechanics which I think is not very relevant to the issue at hand. How
>about just using a term like "natural law" for this category?
My response is to ask whether "natural law" is an appropriate word to
use for a resurrection (MATA) or healing (MATA)? for a theistically
influenced battle (semi-MATA)? or for mental-emotional support (often but
not always NATA)?
If all of these are claimed, in the Bible, to be examples of theistic
action, and if we're not comfortable with calling a miracle "natural law"
(which trivializes events such as Exodus 17 or Acts 3), then why should
"natural law" be an acceptable term for describing TA-events at other
locations along the MATA-NATA continuum?