parsimonious creationism

Paul Arveson (
Sat, 14 Dec 96 14:23:52 EST

George wrote:

So, do I believe in "intelligent design"? Yes. I believe that
the whole saga of big bang and biological evolution and all the rest are
ways in which God is working out the plan to unite "all things" in
Christ (Eph.1:10). I think that God makes use of various subsidiary
designs along the way. But while science helps me to understand what
is involved in that belief (_fides quarens intellectum_), I do not get
that fundamental belief itself from science.

George Murphy


I think George may be getting to the heart of the debate about design. The real
issue being ponedered here is not with the concept of creation; all theists
believe that. Nor is the issue miracles; all Christians believe those can
happen. Nor is the issue "methodological naturalism"; nor is the issue with the
definition of "intelligence", nor is it with the question of "intervention".

Perhaps the basic question is not theological but scientific. I think the
problem many people have with most of the "design" arguments is that they want
to find explanatory gaps in biology and other fields of complex phenomena.
As a physicist, perhaps the reason that bothers me so much is its lack of

As scientists we are raised shaving with Bishop Ockham's razor, and in the
case of biology we find no compelling reason (e.g. direct biblical statements)
to reject this principle. From what we have learned about cosmology recently,
physics has achieved, at least in principle, a "gapless" explanation for all
molecular processes including living processes. The real fundamental "loose
ends" occur at the beginning, with the boundary conditions and initial
conditions of the universe.

There are at present around 20 free parameters that define the fundamental
physical constants, and no one knows why they have their specific values. We
know that our lives literally depend on these values being very close to what
they are, but we don't know whether they are actually arbitrary (and therfore
"pre-set") or whether they are dependent on some deeper level of symmetry.
Einstein, Weinberg and others have deeply pondered this question.

As theists we all believe in "design", but it's where you place the design
that is at question. From the point of view of physics, it seems almost silly
that God would take the trouble to mess around "specially creating" every
different kind of plant and animal. Just because we can't presently explain all
the processes of biology doesn't imply that there aren't any, nor does it imply
that there must have been miraculous interventions there, or anywhere else,
merely for the sake of creating some specific thing in the universe.

On the other hand, we have to wonder why the world itself -- the WHOLE world
-- is such a rich place, so capable in its creative capacities. The more we
learn of modern cosmology, the more it appears that the Creator is wiser than we
used to think.

Paul Arveson, Research Physicist
Code 724, NSWC, Bethesda, MD 20817-5700
(301) 227-3831 (W) (301) 227-1914 (FAX) (301) 816-9459 (H)