Re: What does ID mean?

Bill Hamilton (
Tue, 21 Apr 1998 10:13:55 -0400

At 11:23 AM 4/20/98 -0400, Loren Haarsma wrote:
>Suppose a theistic scientist is investigating a specific problem --- an
>unexpected deflection in an atomic beam, or the pathology and history of
>a recent disease outbreak amongst humans, or the unusually high
>concentration of a certain isotope in one rock strata in one location,
>or a transient surge in 511 keV gamma rays coming from the direction of
>the center of the galaxy, or the ways in which nerve cells develop in an
>embryo, or the formation of an antibiotic-resistant strain of bacteria,
>or the high incidence of bipolar disorder in a certain family. Suppose
>this scientist hypothesizes that the most probable explanation for this
>problem is one or more natural mechanisms (rather than a miracle), and
>the most fruitful way to investigate it is to proceed under that
>assumption. This scientist believes that "natural" events are in no way
>independent of God, but are every bit as much under God's sovereignty
>and providence as miracles. The scientist holds the hypothesis, that
>the most likely explanation for this problem is in terms of natural
>mechanisms, for a combination of empirical, theoretical, experiential,
>philosophical, and theological reasons. The hypothesis is held
>provisionally, with the belief that God can perform miracles, that God
>might have performed a miracle in this case, and that the investigation
>might eventually point in that direction. The scientist also knows that
>the reasons for holding the "natural mechanisms" hypothesis in this
>particular case do not apply universally to all phenomena.

I'm not sure whether you intended this Loren, but your use of specific
examples above, presumably being pursued by a scientist with expertise in
the discipline each example comes from, makes a significant point: We tend
to look for natural causes in phenomena we are accustomed to investigating.
When we know what mechanisms act, we are confident in looking for natural
causes. That doesn't mean we are excluding divine interaction with nature.
It's just that we understand how things normally work well enough that we
know how to look for natural causes. In a field we don't understand, we
are more likely to be mystified about how one would investigate a puzzling
phenomenon. Then we are more prone to being persuaded that some divine
intervention may have occurred.

So if I could understand all mechanisms in nature, would I then have to
rule out any divine intervention? Not at all. Many of you are probably
familiar with a story about Dallas Theological Seminary. I believe it was
in the 20's, and the school was in serious financial difficulty. The
president of the school and some faculty members were praying in the
president's office, and one of them prayed something like this: "O Lord, we
know that you own the cattle on a thousand hills. We ask that you sell a
few of them to help us through this crisis." About that time a cattleman
came into the outer office. He had just sold some cattle and told the
secretary he had felt a strong conviction that he should give the proceeds
to DTS. He signed the check over to the seminary and the secretary took it
to the president's office. The check was for the exact maount the school
needed. The individual who answered the secretary's knock recognized the
acttleman's name and said, "It appears the Lord sold some cattle to help
us." So far as I know, no natural law was violated. Nevertheless, I would
call this a miracle.

Of course I'm not ruling out God setting aside natural laws -- or utilizing
capabilities in nature that are unknown to us. But "miracle" does not have
to imply the violation of a law of nature.

Bill Hamilton, Staff Research Engineer
Chassis and Vehicle Systems, GM R&D Center
Warren, MI / (home)