Re: Once again...ID

Brian D Harper (
Tue, 28 Apr 1998 16:30:03 -0400

At 09:43 AM 4/28/98 -0600, Garry wrote:


>If I rightly understand some of the views being expressed on this listserv,
>it seems that God's providence is restricted to "sustenance," and
>"governance" is restricted to the God's determination of the conditions of
>creation. This is what puzzles me. In this regard I agree with what you
>However, I have difficulty in asserting that God can use a (truly) random
>process, be assured of the outcome, and not need to (or be expected to)
>providentially intervene in the governance of the random process. It is in
>the assurance of the outcome of a (truly) random process that I think the
>contradiction lies.

I'm not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but according
to my understanding evolution is not a random process in the
usual statistical sense of the word random. Here I don't have
in mind the usual statement that Natural Selection is not
random. I mean that the parts of evolution we usually refer
to as "random" are not necessarily random. IOW, in evolution
random usually just means that an event does not anticipate
the needs of an organism. One can have highly deterministic
processes that satisfy this definition of "randomness".

Now to change the subject. It struck me that there seems to
be a parallel between the concerns being expressed here
(concerns which I certainly share) and those that one often
hears in a theological discussion about God's sovereignty
versus man's free will. For example, I might ask myself
"does God know what I'll be doing two months from now?"
Of course I want to answer yes, but as soon as I do I'll
argue with myself "well, how can I be free then?". I
really don't want to get into this theology, I just wanted
to note the parallel.

What I would like to argue is that chance, indeterminacy
and randomness (as these words are typically used in science)
are necessary (but not sufficient) conditions for free will.
Consider a thought experiment. Suppose that several of us
got together and observed the behavior of an intelligent
agent (IA) over a period of several months. Suppose that
we were able to develop a model from which we could predict
how this IA would behave in the future. Wouldn't we conclude
that this IA was not free? If the IA insisted that it was
free, wouldn't we just smile knowingly at one another?
If an IA has free will, wouldn't this freedom appear to us
as chance?

thought of a universe with chance and indeterminacy makes
me a little uneasy, the idea of a deterministic universe
makes me even more so.

Now for a really speculative thought. Is it possible that
the creation of an intelligent agent with true freedom
requires some sort of evolutionary process with some
amount of chance and indeterminacy?

Brian Harper
Applied Mechanics
Ohio State University
214 Boyd Lab
155 W. Woodruff Ave
Columbus, OH 43210

"What does philosophy got to do with measuring
anything?" -- Galileo