Re: Once again...ID

Linda R. Barrett (barrett@uakron.edu)
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 15:21:18 -0400

Garry DeWeese wrote:

> The problem is this, I suggest. Granted that God designed the space-time
> manifold and all possible forms of matter/energy that it might contain, and
> he also designed the properties (including capacities for structuration,
> etc) of the manifold and matter/energy. (This is Howard Van Till's "Robust
> Formational Economy," I take it.) Our representations of the relations
> between these properties are what we call the laws of nature. Now it
> appears that some of the laws are indeterminate in principle, not merely
> due to the limits of our knowledge.
>

I'm curious which laws you were thinking of as being "indeterminate in
principle". How would you know whether the indeterminism is in principle or
due to limits of our knowledge?

> [snip]

> The problem is that if God only designs the initial entities and their

> properties, and establishes the initial conditions, then the outcome of an
> indeterministic system is governed by counterfactuals of chance. So to
> insure the process resulted in the human species, God would have to have
> taken account of these counterfactuals of chance. But do such things
> exist? How does God know them? And in virtue of what does he know them?
> The classic answer to this is that God knows them through his knowledge of
> his own will. But if so, then either (i) God knows when he must act to
> make determinate certain indeterminacies so that the continued evolution of
> the whole continues towards his willed end; of else (ii) the
> indeterminacies are nor really random at all, but are pseudo-random.
>

This seems to me to be a question of definition. What does "random" mean?
Perhaps someone with more statistical background than I can explain to me how
one would distinguish random from pseudo-random through observation. The only
way I can think of to decide whether a process is random or not is to take lots
of observations and then see if the results follow a random distribution.
But--we only know what a random distribution looks like through observation of
processes that are thought to be random. The way I understand it, pseudo-random
simply means that a random distribution is simulated through determinate means
(i.e., someone writes a program that simulates a random distribution). I
suppose that some algorithms that produce pseudo-random distributions simulate
the random distribution imperfectly, but it is conceivable (at least to me) that
a pseudo-random number generator could produce a perfect simulation of a random
distribution. If that were the case, how could we distinguish the results of
the pseudo-random process from the true process?

Perhaps the problem most of us have with "random" is that we assume that it
means that there is no direction or influence on the process from anywhere or
anyone (including God). But that is merely our assumption.

> (i) is certainly compatible with providence, but involves not only a
> "Robust Formational Economy" but also continual (or at least periodic)
> providential intervention, while (ii) flies in the face of the general
> conception of evolution as propelled by chance.
>
> So on (i), then, God is not only the "purposeful conceptulizer" but also,
> from time to time, the "efficient artisan."

I don't see why either (i) or (ii) should be objectionable. Isn't God
sovereign? Doesn't he intervene in our world now, providentially? How do we
know that some of his interventions don't appear (to us) to be "random"? Why
should that not also have happened before we were here? Why would we recognize
providential intervention in the world today, but not as the world was forming?

Some of the processes God uses may appear to us to be random. It seems that
most of his dealings with the world follow the patterns he set up (designed)
when he initially created the world, which we call natural laws. Can't God use
random processes as well? (Maybe that's contradictory, but I can't put my
finger on the contradiction.)

--Linda Barrett

--
Dr. Linda R. Barrett
Department of Geography and Planning
University of Akron
Akron, OH  44325-5005
barrett@uakron.edu

The Department of Geography and Planning's Web Page: http://www.uakron.edu/geography/