The nature of nature
Sat, 21 Aug 1999 09:58:44 -0500

Two conversations have run on parallel tracks on this
listserv the past few weeks; the capacity of matter to generate
humans and the historicity of Genesis 1. I would like to add
my two cents about the former.

I think that the capacity of matter to 'evolve' humans is at the heart of
the fully gifted economy. The concept that 'God intervened in
the creation of humans, but there are no gaps in evolutionary
history', makes perfect sense to someone literate in current
science. The trajectory of anti-entropic (structure building) and
stochastic processes (from tornadoes to the chemical synthesis)
cannot be predicted for a particular event (one tornado, one guanine
and phosphate). Every era of the evolutionary history of our solar
system, planet, biosphere, and semiosis is ridded with anti-entropic and
stochastic processes. Divine intervention cannot be
excluded. At the same time, it should prove immensely difficult
to demonstrate divine intervention.

This argument points out a limit to what science can know. This limit
differentiates methodoligical naturalism from philosophical naturalism
(which claims that there are no limits to scientific or natural thought).
But what does this differentiation mean?

We can follow history to see a series of differentiations in regards
to nature and the divine.

In early compact societies (Egypt, Sumerian...) nature and divine were not

Greek philosophers differentiated nature and divine. They examined the
nature of the gods.

Jewish tradition differentiated nature and divine in Genesis 1. Nature was
not divine.

Christian tradition followed the Greeks and the Jews on a complicated
journey that produced science, where nature was differentiated into
science (methodological naturalism) and common sense (natural

This differentiation was immediately confounded with
the prior 'nature-divine' differentiation. Modernism paired 'science -nature'
and 'common sense - divine'. The elevation of the first pair over the
second was fueled by the fact that science violated our common sense
experience of nature. For both the Greeks and the Jews, the divine was
assigned to most anything that violated our common sense experience.
Therefore, modernism bagged Christianity on two fronts. Science defied
common sense. Common sense doesn't inspire divine thoughts. Science
was seen as enlightened. Religion became superstition. Phil Johnson jousts
against this dragon.

However, if science defies our commons sense, then the pairing should be
'common sense - nature' and 'science - divine' . The latter is exactly what
the argument in the second paragraph points to. Science is one pole of our
experience of reality. The divine is another.

The former pairing is yet to be explored: Common sense is one pole to our
experience of reality and nature is another. This pairing is different from
'common sense - science (methodological naturalism)' and should be
considered a complement to 'common sense -divine'.

I think that the discussion we are seeing on the listserv flows from the change
our experience of reality that began with the differentiation of 'nature' into
'science' and 'common sense'. If we look at the four pairs, we see the words
conform to the different sensibilities expressed in the discussion on the nature
of nature that has taken place the last few weeks.

If you consider each word as a pole of our experience of reality that is
from the other pole and you begin to get a feel for the beauty and range of the
postmodern Christian synthesis.

Nature - divine
Common sense - science
Science - nature
Science - divine
Common sense - nature
Common sense - divine


The next question is: What will come out of this debate? Are we sowing
the wind?