Meta 133: Notes from JTF Summer Workshop in Boston

Keith B Miller (
Thu, 16 Jul 1998 13:00:05 -0600

Another interesting post form the Templeton listserve.


>Meta 133. 7/15/98. Approximately 208 lines.
>Below are lecture notes submitted by Paul H. Carr taken at the Templeton
>Summer Workshop at MIT in June. Carr himself is affiliated with the
>Philosophy Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, where he
>is teaching a science and religion course. Included are reviews of talks
>by Anne Foerst, Owen Gingerich, Arthur Peacocke, and Francisco Ayala.
>Also of interest is this week's cover story in "Newsweek" on Faith and
>Science, which features many of the speakers from the Science and Spiritual
>Quest conference in Berkeley last month. If you have access to America
>Online, you can retrieve the entire text of the Newsweek articles by using
>the keyword "Newsweek."
>-- Billy Grassie
>From: "Paul H. Carr" <>
>Subject: Boston S & R Workshop, Perspectives on Evolution
>Templeton Boston Workshop on Science and Religion,
>Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 13-17 June 1998
>Reviewed by Paul Henry Carr,
>Philosophy Dept. Univ. Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA, 01854-2881
>"From Mythos to Logos and Back"
>Anne Foerst, Postdoctoral Fellow, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT and
>Harvard Center for Values in Public Life
> Logos is a statement within a discussion: HOW Mythos is an authoritative
>statement about meaning and ultimate concern: WHY
>Theology is the analytic study of the mythos. They should not, but are in a
>dialectic relationship Both are equally necessary for human life. One can
>not be translated or resolved into the other and they influence each other
>strongly. Every logos is based on a mythos, unproven assumptions and
>stories. If the mythos is not articulated, than the logos becomes its own
>mythos. This unbalanced condition can sometimes lead to extremes, like the
>holocaust. For Dr. Forest, the miracle of Jesus walking on water is most
>meaningful when interpreted as Mythos. Water can be interpreted as a symbol
>of uncontrollable emotion. Using this, Jesus' walking on water symbolizes
>his control of the "uncontrollable."
>"Where in the World is God?"
>"Johannes Kepler: Praising God through Astronomy"
>Owen Gingerich, Senior Astronomer, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory,
>Professor of Astronomy and the History of Science, Harvard University.
> On November 7, 1492, a brilliant fireball exploded over Switzerland and a
>stony meteorite plunged three feet into the ground. Emperor Maximilian,
>puzzled by the stone, consulted his advisers. They decided exactly what it
>was a wonder of God, a signal of favor to the emperor. Five centuries
>later, people have, commonly come to accept former mysteries as natural,
>normal phenomena and not as miracles or signs from God. Long ago, the fall
>of an Apple was sometimes interpreted as the "Will of God." This is an
>example of mythos. However such a statement does not pass muster as
>scientific explanation, as logos.
> This raises the question "Where in the world is God," or more
>particularly, the question of divine intervention in the physical universe.
>We can envision God as creating and recreating the universe from moment to
>moment. To postulate this moment-to-moment action of God is, however, more
>useful as a theological perspective, creationist's mythos, than as
>realization scientific notion. This idea of God's activity is comparable to
>the carrier wave of television-it makes it all possible, but it isn't the
>program. Science is interested in the program.
>So let us look at the program and examine three scenarios for God's
>involvement or intervention. As an example, we will use the paradoxides
>trilobite, which was an unusually large three-lobed creature from the
>middle Cambrian Sea bottom. It was called paradoxides, because it seemed to
>have no obvious ancestor in the Cambrian strata.
>Option One is to say that God created it, like our medieval predecessors
>who thought eels were born out of mud. This is similar to Isaac Newton's
>realization that the planets would each be attracting each other. He feared
>for the stability of the planetary system, but he proposed that God would
>from time-to-time readjust the system to maintain its order. Newton's
>continental rival and critic, Leibnitz, promptly retorted that this was "a
>very mean notion of the wisdom and power of God." Would such an explanation
>as Newton's deter astronomers from investigating further? It did not stop
>the French theoreticians, who in the next century closed the gap by showing
>that the solar system was stable despite such gravitational perturbations.
>God was no longer actively needed for the task. Option one is the scenario
>commonly adopted by the creationists. It agrees with the fossil record but
>provides no explanatory framework for all the relationships addressed by
>the theory of evolution by natural selection.
> Option Two provides a mechanism. A few cosmic rays zoom through the DNA of
>the ancestor creatures' germ cells, mutations occur, and in the genetic
>shuffling of sexual reproduction the offspring gradually become different.
>Behold! A new species, paraxdides, has come into being. God, within the
>limits of the uncertainty principal, could have directed these cosmic rays.
> Option Three is Howard Van Till's "functional integrity" view of creation.
>God's plan and design of the universe prepares for living beings to arise
>without further immediate intervention. This is in accordance with
>pre-ordained rules of order i.e. the laws of physics and chemistry. God's
>potential forms pre-exist in "possibility space." The initial creation was
>"pregnant with possibilities conceived in the mind of the Creator." The
>miracle of life is in the planning, not in disguise of a series of hidden
>discontinuities. Peacocke's talk below favors Option Three.
>Gingerich showed that coherence was more important than proof in the
>replacement of Ptolemy's geocentric universe by Copernicus' heliocentric
>system. Copernicus at the beginning of the 16th century proposed his system
>as "pleasing to the mind." It placed the fastest planet, Mercury, closest
>to the sun and the slowest, Saturn, most distant. Galileo at the beginning
>of the 17th century had no "proof positive" that the earth was moving. His
>explanation of the tides turned out to be wrong! Nevertheless, his
>discovery of the moons of Jupiter and the mountains on the moon made more
>sense in Copernicus' system than Ptolemy's, where all the heavenly bodies
>were perfect spheres made of "ether." Kepler, a contemporary of Galileo,
>adopted the heliocentric system, as it allowed him to place the six known
>planets within the five nested perfect polyhedral solids of Plato and
>Pythagoras. This ordering was Trinitarian: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
>corresponded respectively to the sun, the stars, and spaces between the
>planetary orbits. Newton, later in the 17th century had no "proof positive"
>that the earth moved, but his gravitational theory made no sense without a
>massive, comparatively immobile, sun near the gravitational center.
>Foucault's proof positive that the earth was moving with his pendulum in
>1851 was anticlimactic, as the scientific community had already accepted
>the Copernican system by then.
> "Welcoming the 'Disguised Friend'- Darwinism and Divinity"
>Arthur Peacocke, Society of Ordained Scientists; Dean of Clare College,
>Cambridge; and Director of Ian Ramsey Centre, St. Cross College, Oxford, UK.
>"Darwinism appeared, and, under the disguise of a foe, did the is work of a
>friend. It has conferred upon philosophy and religion an inestimable
>benefit, by showing us that we must choose between two alternatives. Either
>God is everywhere present in nature, or he is nowhere." (Aubrey Moore, in
>the 12th edition of "Lux Mundi, 1891. p.73)
> Darwin, contrary to popular opinion, was generally accepted by liberal
>theologians of the 19th century. Darwinism has led to a renewed sense of
>the sacramentality of nature and God's immanence in the world. God is
>continually creating at each moment a world characterized by spontaneity in
>nature and creative freedom for humanity. We are human "becomings" rather
>than "beings." God is the imminent creator working in and through the
>processes of the natural order. He sustains the laws of nature. God is also
>the transcendent ground of being, beyond space and time. Peacocke is
>therefore a panentheist.
> Is evolution due to chance or design? Peacocke believes in a creative
>interplay of chance and design or law apparent in the evolution of living
>matter by natural selection.
>"Instead of being daunted by the role of chance in genetic mutations as
>being the manifestation of irrationality in the universe, it would be more
>consistent with the observations to assert that the full gamut of the
>potentialities of living matter could be explored only through the agency
>of the rapid and frequent randomization. This is possible at the molecular
>level with DNA."
>Chance operating within a law-like framework is the basis of the inherent
>creativity of the natural order, in its ability to generate new forms
>matter and life. As in many games, the consequences of the fall of the dice
>depend very much on the rules of the game.
>Can natural selection alone accountant for the tremendous diversity and
>complexity of life?
>Richard Dawkins says "yes," but biologists like Stewart Kaufmann assert
>that there is a propensity for self-organization inherent in nature. For
>Peacocke, God is the ultimate ground and creative source of both law
>(design) and chance.
> Biological death of the individual is the pre-requisite of the biological
>order, that creativity which eventually led to the emergence of human
>beings. The extinction of the dinosaurs is attributed to collisions of the
>earth with asteroids or other heavily bodies. This adds an element of sheer
>contingency to natural history of life on this earth. The spontaneity and
>fecundity of the biological world is gained at the enormous price of death
>and of pain and suffering during life. If God is also immanently present in
>and to natural processes, than God like a human creator, suffers in, and
>with other creative processes of the world. "God suffers eminently and yet
>is still God, and a God who suffers universally." This is symbolized by the
>suffering of God's son, Jesus, on the cross.
>"Human Evolution: Biology, Culture, Ethics"
>Francisco J. Ayala, Dept .of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University
>of California, Irvine
>The most distinctive human anatomical traits are a large brain and erect
>posture. The hominid lineage diverged from that of the chimpanzee 5-7
>million years ago (Mya). It evolved exclusively in the African continent
>until the emergence of Homo erectus, somewhat before 1.8 Mya. Modern Homo
>sapiens has a brain weight of three pounds as compared to one pound for a
>chimpanzee. Biological evolution adapts life to its environment. Human
>cultural evolution enables us to change our environment to suit the needs
>of our genes. Cultural evolution is based on the transmission of
>information by a teaching-learning process, which is in principle
>independent of biological parentage.
>Ethical behavior (proclivity to judge human actions as good or evil) has
>evolved as a consequence of high human intelligence. Ethical beings must
>(1) have the ability to anticipate the consequences of their actions, (2)
>ability to make value judgements, and (3) the ability to choose between
>alternatives. The capacity for moral behavior does not tell us what the
>moral values should be, just as the capacity for language does not
>determine which language we should speak. Moral values are the result of
>cultural evolution, not biological evolution. The latter is morally
>neutral. Biological evolution has also produced smallpox and AIDS. The
>sociobiologist's claim that moral values are a result of biological
>evolution is an example of the naturalistic fallacy: confusing "what is"
>with what "ought to be."
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Keith B. Miller
Department of Geology
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506