Re: History and Goals (for TE)

Craig Rusbult (
Sat, 20 Jun 1998 12:41:28 -0500

> But the uneasiness some of us feel derives from allowing indeterminism
>to drive the evolution of humans. Several times Glenn Morton, for example,
>has shown how there are some parameters which set limits on the phase space
>of genetic change, but he claims that such a conception can explain the
>random mutations and selection which led to humans. Yes, this trajectory
>through phase space is "possible" in the sense of nomological possibility.
>But our feeling is that this possibility has such a low mathematical
>probability of
>actually being realized that God's intervention somewhere along the way is
>not only probable but required. ....

[ CR: my intuitions here are similar to those of Garry ]

>... 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.
> (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."
> Now I don't know what the ID guys would think about this, nor do I know if
>there would be any way using empirical methods to identify some or all of
>the ponts where God did so intervene (I'm inclined to think not). But it
>is my impression that (i) does not commmend itself to many of you.

[ CR: this "i or ii" is responded to in later posts; i is analogous to
human history in the Bible, and ii is technically sophisticated (in ways
discussed by list participants on many occasions ]
[ if miraculous TA was used, we *might* be able to identify points for
this TA, but with normal-appearing TA there is no empirical testing except
for estimates for the degree of reproducibility in E-history, which could
then be compared with our estimates for God's goals in formative history ]

* 5. GARRY:
> I don't think that expanding the spysical possibilities for the
>location of the evolution of free moral creatures to include all possible
>planets is sufficient to remove the necessity that God know the
>counterfactuals of chance. I may be wrong.

> How would you know whether the indeterminism is in principle or
>due to limits of our knowledge? ...

[ CR: this is always an important question when we're thinking about
quantum mechanics, divergency in history,...] see message 20, below

> 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?

[ CR: Linda describes "normal-appearing theistic action" here, which
if used during formative history would still be compatible with scientific
descriptions of evolution. I echo Linda's history-question, and wonder
why TEs would object to normal-appearing theistic guidance of FORMATIVE
history, since Christians accept this guidance (and should welcome it)
in HUMAN history.

* 20. BILL
> A nonlinear system can be deterministic in the sense that if you start it
>from the same initial conditions (to infinite precision of course :-)) you
>will get the same behavior. But the inevitable imprecision in initial
>conditions makes it impossible to predict its behavior beyond some
>"coherence interval" in time. So you have a deterministic system that is
>not predictable.
> Certainly from the point of view of human knowledge and capabilities, some
>things may be in principle indeterminate, but I'm wary of trying to extend
>that to God. ...
>But we
>don't know all the laws of nature, nor are we omnipresent or omniscient.
>I'd be cautious about claiming that a process is random from God's point of
>view. ...

[ CR: this description of epistemological humility, similar to Linda's
comments above, seems logically/theologically justified ]

in response to Garry's choice of "i or ii" (described above), Bill says:

> You can probably guess that I will choose ii. What appears random to
>human capabilities does not necessarily appear random to God. What we can
>establish from the fossil record is that life developed through many stages
>over many millions of years -- common descent. What we can establish from
>the modern synthesis is that processes that satisfy all the tests we can
>devise for randomness produce variations that are then filtered by natural
>selection. But whether those processes are truly random from God's point
>of view, and whether the filtering brought about by natural selection is
>just "lucky happenstance" or planned is a different question -- one I'm not
>convinced we are able to answer. BTW, even if there is such a thing as a
>"truly random from God's point of view" process and genetic variation is
>such a process, that doesn't necessarily mean God is not in control.
>Engineers who design nonlinear control systems tend to like a certain
>amount of noise in the system because it keeps mechanical systems from
>hanging up on nastinesses like stiction. If there weren't noise in the
>system, these folks would introduce it. Similarly God might deliberately
>introduce noise into the dynamics of genetics to produce a sufficiently
>rich set of variations to ensure that the populations of living things in
>His universe would be able to adapt to all disturbances He allows to occur.

[ CR: "What we can establish from the modern synthesis is that...";
it depends on what we mean by "establish" and the standards of evaluation;
I still think questions like Behe's "irreducible complexity" should be
asked, and that evolutionary mechanisms for producing ALL of the
biocomplexity we observe are not "established" beyond doubt. ]

[ CR: Why isn't the concept of "normal appearing theistic action" (for
the purpose of ACTIVE THEISTIC GUIDANCE to achieve a specific goal) worth
considering and including in a definition of TE? Or is this what you're
implying here, Bill, as indicated by the phrase "even if there is such a
thing as a 'truly random from God's point of view' process..."? ]