Re: What does the creation lack?

From: James W Stark (
Date: Fri Oct 26 2001 - 11:38:54 EDT

  • Next message: bivalve: "Re: What does the creation lack?"

    on 10/26/01 7:50 AM, george murphy at wrote:

    > "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 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 -
    > 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.
    > Amen! I thought that I would get more of a response to Walter Winkıs
    > perspective and his implication of the myth of redemptive violence in our
    > wars. It got one brief note of agreement.
    > Jim Stark
    > 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."
    > To me the ultimate epistemic barrier is Godıs gift of freedom. We must choose
    > to contact God. We cannot test the presence of Godıs divine influence.
    > However, we can identify specific points of possible influence that I have
    > underlined.
    > Jim Stark
    > 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.
    > Shalom,
    > George
    > We should confine our explorations for points of entry to fields of
    > uncertainty. To me, chaos theory is a field of certainty. God could enter at
    > any decision point involving freedom. Other specific areas of uncertainty
    > would be chance, spontaneity, natural selection, bifurcation points,
    > serendipity, etc. We could create plausible explanations for action at those
    > points that incorporate free will or spiritual influence.
    > Jim Stark
    > Food for thought [from Howard J. Van Till ‹ one comment added]:
    > 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 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
    >>> 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 alone.
    >>> Science will continue to discover other points of uncertainty where God
    >>> could have entered Godıs choice. Scientist refuse to create causal
    >>> explanations for these points of entry. They are forced to create metaphors
    >>> devoid of spirituality to act as causes. It is the responsibility of
    >>> Christians to act as agents of God by creating plausible spiritual
    >>> explanations.
    >>> Jim Stark
    >>> Interesting proposition. Comments?

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