Re: What does the creation lack?

From: Howard J. Van Till (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 15:48:36 EDT

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    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
    been exhausted?

    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
    sufficiently effective.

    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
    "astronomical improbability."

    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?
    Peter's solution:

    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?

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