Re: causality

Bill Hamilton (
Thu, 6 Feb 1997 13:23:43 -0500

Paul Arveson wrote a few days ago (sorry for pulling a Steve Jones :-)

>Quantum physics, by placing indeterminacy on a deeper level, was effective
>in finally refuting the Newtonian/Laplacian deterministic/mechanistic
>world view. For that we should be grateful. Because it also finally
>refuted the deistic misconception of God as a Deus ex machina, a part of the
>machine, who needs some mechanism to "explain" his actions. Quantum
>'mechanics' also introduced important positive conceptions such as
>complementarity and non-locality that may serve ultimately to clarify
>our theological conceptions.

It seems to me that nonlinear dynamics and its attendant strange
attractors, chaos and fractals has also done -- or should have done -- much
to make us cautious about our ability to isolate root causes. Someone
pointed out that chaos implies that extremely small variations in initial
and boundary conditions can cause large changes in the evolution of a
system -- and that perhaps provides a mechanism whereby quantum
fluctuations can influence macroscopic functions. Interesting but not
really what I wanted to comment on. Paul's next statement is the one I
wanted to comment -- or perhaps meditate -- on:
>We must meditate on these things. Note that even though indeterminacy
>changes our conception of causality, it is still PHYSICAL. Its subject
>matter is matter. Books about this are classified in the physics section
>of the library. But God is a Spirit. This is what I wrote about in my
>last post.

God is a Spirit, and we attribute our existence, the existence of the world
around us and it evolution in time to Him. By definition Christianity says
the spiritual not only influences, but is the origin of and the director
of, nature. The basic disagreement between Christians and atheists is over
the existence of the spiritual. Between Christians and agnostics the
disagreement is over whether the spiritual, if it exists, can have any
influence on the physical.

Some of my friends who are atheists contend that if the spiritual exists
and can influence the material world, then we ought to be able to detect
the occurrence of this influence. To me this seems to make an implicit
assumption that there are no limits to our powers of perception and

Some of my friends who are creationists look at gaps in our understanding
of nature and claim that nature alone would cease to function if something
(or Someone) was not counteracting the effects of the gaps. This seems to
me to implicitly assume that we can identify gaps that human knowledge will
never be able to fill. History has shown this position to be dangerous.

Both views assume humans have abilities they can't be shown to have. So
what's the solution? IMO it's to recognize that God is Spirit (John 4:24)
and that our ability to recognize the spiritual is extremely limited.
However, God knows this and reveals Himself to us, and His self-revelation
through the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures is the only means we have of
knowing Him. Attempts to prove his existence through gaps in nature, or
his nonexistence by filling gaps miss the point that God is fundamentally
separate from nature, so we only know of Him what He chooses to make

Bill Hamilton
William E. Hamilton, Jr, Ph.D. | Staff Research Engineer
Chassis and Vehicle Systems | General Motors R&D Center | Warren, MI
810 986 1474 (voice) | 810 986 3003 (FAX) | (home email)