Atoms and God (was Re: Evolution of proteins in sequence space)

From: george murphy (
Date: Sun Aug 05 2001 - 13:49:49 EDT

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    Lawrence Johnston wrote:

    > Peter - Thanks x 10^6 for that beautiful analysis of our situation in sequence space. It
    > looks to me like this leaves us with two options:
    > 1, we adopt Van Til's hypothesis of ultra-smart atoms or 2. Assume that Someone has been
    > injecting huge amounts of information into the Universe, from outside. Other options?

            Coincidentally, I just received the following press release. (Snail mail is really
    slow.) While the argument is a bit dated, I think it's germane to the present topic.

    FROM: The Discovered Institute

    DATE: 1 April 1899

    RE: Proof of supernatural action


            Scientists from The Discovered Institute announced today that the existence of atoms
    proves the existence of a God who continually acts in the world by supernatural means.

            For nearly a century, chemists and physicists have been gathering a great deal of
    evidence that all matter is composed of minute atoms. We now also know that these atoms have
    electrical properties, and recent research by Prof. J.J. Thomson and others has shown that
    they contain minute electrically charged particles called "electrons." Virtually no
    scientists today dispute these results. But it can be shown that the very existence of atoms
    contradicts the well-established laws of physics!

            A result known as "Earnshaw's theorem" shows that the electrons in an atoms cannot be
    in stable equilibrium under the action of the only two forces in nature, electromagnetism and
    gravitation. But if the electrons are in motion in the confined space of an atom, their
    velocities would have to be changing. And if this were the case, the laws of mechanics and
    electromagnetism say that they would have to radiate away all their energy in a fraction of a
    second. All atoms would collapse in a blink of an eye!

            But atoms exist. The only possible explanation is that God is continually
    intervening to keep these atoms in being in a way which the laws of physics cannot explain.

            This obviously has tremendous significance for religion and culture. The
    naturalistic view of the world which has been promoted by Huxley, Haeckel, and others has
    been refuted.


            The physics here is correct - as of 1899. But you all know (or should) what
    happened. Within a year Planck introduced the idea of quanta. In 1913 Bohr applied the
    concept to atomic structure
    and a few years later full-fledged quantum theory was explaining atomic spectra, chemical
    bonding, &c with high precision. It did this by introducing radically new concepts which
    differed at the micro level from the physics of Newton & Maxwell which had "proved" that
    atoms couldn't exist.

            The analogy with current discussions about chemical evolution & related topics is
    obvious. It may indeed be that our present theories are unable to explain how such evolution
    could have taken place. But to conclude that no scientific theory can explain it (as, e.g.,
    Dembski does when he says that this gap is "ontological" and not "methodological") is quite

           N.B. I do not
                a. Claim that some radically new scientific theory is necessary, &
                b. If it is, I don't know what it is!
            I am merely pointing this out as a possibility, one for which significant historical
    precedents can be cited. & of course this isn't indented to stop theological discussions
    about how God acts in the world. But those discussions shouldn't be unduly influenced by the
    fact that present day science hasn't been able to explain certain phenomena.

            I anticipate various objections to this analogical argument but refrain now from
    carrying out a pre-emptive strike against them.


    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Dialogue"

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