"Howard J. Van Till" wrote:
> The following reflection on Peter Ruest's proposal regarding the
> nature and role of divine creative action was posted nearly a week
> 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?
The topic of divine action is important but we can't discuss
everything all the time. I imagine that most of us have at one time or
another posted something that we thought should evoke lively responses,
only to have the topic dissipate in cyberspace.
An obvious question about Peter's proposal, & the only one I
address here, concerns the nature of the "several physical processes for
which many differing outcomes are possible" and for which "There are
permanent epistemic barriers ... that prevent science from gaining
sufficient knowledge to predict which particular outcome will occur."
In his articles he says "they may include quantum uncertainties,
randomness in elementary events, unpredictability due to minute
parameter value deviations in nonlinear systems liable to produce
deterministic chaos, and coincidences." It's not clear what
"randomness" & "coincidence" might refer to other than aspects of the
other two possibilities, which are the ones that really need to be
considered: Quantum uncertainty & chaos.
A number of people, going back to Wm Pollard, have suggested
that God acts below the level of the uncertainty principle. Bob Russell
has recently (in his essay in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology)
connected the idea that God acts at the quantum level with genetic
mutations & evolution. Polkinghorne has emphasized the role of chaos in
giving God freedom of action in the world.
There's a problem with trying to do this entirely with classical
chaos, for there the equations of motion are still deterministic, even
though there is sensitivity to initial conditions. Therefore free
divine action would have to involve some type of "violation" of the
classical laws, even though that violation would be undetectable by us.
But even though there is no "quantum chaos" in the strict sense, divine
action at the quantum level could provide the variation in initial
conditions needed for classical chaos.
A proposal that God acts at the quantum level to bring about
definite results of measurement processes (i.e., God collapses wave
packets) needs to be spelled out more fully. Does it mean that God
collapses all the wave packets of all measurement processes throughout
the universe? If so, does this happen through some hidden variables or
simply by decreeing the result of each process?
Or does God only determine the results of certain critical processes,
such as those required for some steps in evolution? If so, what
determines the results of all other quantum processes?
There's my contribution for starters.
George L. Murphy
"The Science-Theology Interface"
> 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 list:
> 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
> 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 occurred.
> 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
> Interesting proposition. Comments?
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