The following reflection on Peter Ruest's proposal regarding the nature and
role of divine creative action was posted nearly a week ago.
Since that time this list has seen numerous postings on terrorism, the
justification of war, the languages spoken by the Accadians three millennia
ago, and even some exchanges on biblical numerology.
No postings, however, on Ruest's proposal. What's the deal here? Has the
ASA's interest in the character of divine action and its relation to science
Howard Van Till
Food for thought:
As we all know, there are in the Christian community today many differing
portraits (what-happened-and-when-accounts) of the creation's formational
history. It's probably safe to say that the majority of Christians in North
America hold to some form of portrait that excludes macro-evolution as
ordinarily conceived by biologists.
Arguments against an evolutionary portrait of the creation's formational
history have been based on appeals to (1) the biblical text, (2) theological
considerations, or (3) scientific considerations.
Focusing for the moment only on (3), these arguments commonly take the form
of providing reasons why evolution could not possibly have occurred in the
manner envisioned by mainstream science. In nearly every case it is argued
that the creation lacks some feature, property or capability that is
essential to an evolutionary creation portrait. Here's a representative
a. Young earth episodic creationism: not enough time available; key
formational capabilities clearly missing (there are capability gaps in the
creation's formational economy); the second law of thermodynamics would
forbid evolution even if there were billions of years available.
b. Old earth episodic creationism: not a time problem; but key formational
capabilities are clearly missing (there are capability gaps in the
creation's formational economy).
c. Intelligent Design: key formational capabilities are either missing
(there are capability gaps in the creation's formational economy) or not
d. Peter Ruest's proposal (Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith,
Sept. 2001, pp. 179-183): All requisite formational capabilities are present
(no capability gaps), but they are not sufficiently effective. The
possibility space (for viable material configurations) of the creation is so
overwhelmingly large that the creation could not possibly have come to
occupy the information-rich genetic portion of it without divine assistance
of some sort. Divine assistance is needed to hurdle barriers of
What sort of divine assistance? Says Peter, "...miraculous interventions are
not to be expected on theological grounds...." In David Griffin's
language: no coercive action; no overpowering of creatures by the Creator.
How might God act effectively without miraculous or coercive action?
First, note that there are several physical processes for which many
differing outcomes are possible. There are permanent epistemic barriers,
however, that prevent science from gaining sufficient knowledge to predict
which particular outcome will occur. Events of this sort play a key role in
the formational history of life forms. Our presence as Homo sapiens, for
instance, required that a particular string of possible outcomes actually
Second, propose that God, without violating or overpowering the natural
capabilities of any creaturely system, exercised the choice of particular
outcomes (from among the various possibilities) in such a way that life
evolved in the remarkably fruitful manner that it did. These exercises of
divine choice represent occasions for God to inject new information into the
creaturely system, essential information that was not attainable by
creaturely means alone.
Interesting proposition. Comments?
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Oct 25 2001 - 15:59:17 EDT