Re: God acting in creation #4+++

From: george murphy (
Date: Sat Dec 22 2001 - 15:48:35 EST

  • Next message: Walter Hicks: "Science of the Gaps (Re: God acting in creation #4+++)"

    Peter Ruest wrote:

    > george murphy wrote:
    > > Peter Ruest wrote:
    > > > george murphy wrote (in response to David Campbell):
    > > > > Peter's model doesn't involve the possibility for a new type of
    > > > > organization but merely the realization of a situation that we might
    > > > > have expected, on statistical grounds, not to have happened for a much
    > > > > longer time.
    > > >
    > > > You are right, the organization we find in living things conforms to the
    > > > basic physical laws. But it doesn't conform to physical structures we
    > > > are entitled to expect to spontaneously arise. How much longer is the
    > > > "longer time" you suggest? Are you ready for severalfold exponentiation
    > > > (10^(10^(10^...(...^10)...)) years)? I don't think we get around a
    > > > miraculous infusion of information.
    > > >
    > > > > With your second example, the question would be whether or not
    > > > > the first cell could have come about in accord with the laws of
    > > > > physics prior to its appearance. If so, its creation ex nihilo was
    > > > > unnecessary. If not, then something has happened that cannot be
    > > > > explained by the laws of physics.
    > > >
    > > > Could something that cannot be explained by the laws of physics (e.g.
    > > > due to a configurational space allowing a transastronomical number of
    > > > different paths) nevertheless be in accordance with the laws of physics?
    > >
    > > Peter -
    > > Much of my concern here has to do with the number of highly
    > > improbable events that are called for. (Mea culpa, I failed to
    > > respond to an earlier post of yours on this.) There can be no
    > > fundamental objection to the idea, e.g., that God acted through some
    > > extremely improbable phenomena to bring about the first life on earth,
    > > a point I noted in an article in PSCF (45.3, 1993, p.162) some time
    > > ago.
    > > But when a large number of highly improbable things are called
    > > for then I think of a statement made by C.S. Lewis in comparing Malory
    > > with other Arthurian literature: "One magician is better than two
    > > magicians." When this is applied to theology it suggests that there
    > > is something lacking in style for a theologian to require a number of
    > > phenomena that are outside the ordinary pattern of the world. I
    > > freely confess that this is a question of taste, of theological
    > > aesthetics if you will, & de gustibus non disputandum.
    > >
    > George,
    > I understand your hesitation to accept a solution which you feel is less
    > than elegant - and I am certainly not proposing "two magicians". But
    > what we are looking for is a possible solution to the information
    > problem. Howard's fully capable creational economy looks quite elegant,
    > but it doesn't tell us anything useful for finding out how God might
    > create. It is a blank theological formula which I feel is scientifically
    > preposterous, because it implies that transastronomical amounts of
    > information are stored for some 10 billion years in literally nothing,
    > with God doing nothing any more.

            This is not an accurate statement of either my view or (I think)
    Howard's. I certainly wouldn't say that "God [is] doing nothing anymore" but
    that God is acting within the limits of the patterns characterizing natural
    processes. This need not mean that all the information was stored somewhere
    in the first seconds of the universe. We don't understand how the requisite
    information can be generated by natural processes but that points to a need for
    better scientific understanding rather than an appeal to direct divine action,
    which would be a classic example of a God of the gaps argument.

    > On the other hand - having God provide huge amounts of information when
    > and where needed doesn't strike me as very inelegant. Doesn't Scripture
    > tell us He creates [bara'] individual human beings (Is. 43:7), who are
    > fathered and borne by natural procreation? Ps. 139:13 gives a similar
    > idea, and v.16 includes the individual's life history. What does God do
    > here? Nothing? In scientific language, an individual's personality and
    > life history is conditioned by his or her genome, some as yet poorly
    > understood epigenetics, and many even less well understood aspects of
    > the environment, whereas theological language adds God's providence. If
    > God is responsible for an individual's personality (not sin, of course),
    > wouldn't it be by means of some kind of (non-coercive, not violating any
    > physical law) hidden intervention in a huge number of details like
    > selecting, during meiosis, whether gene xyz of the ovum-to-be comes from
    > the mother's or the father's side, or letting a C-14 atom decay near a
    > given cytidylic residue at a given moment, etc.? No highly improbable
    > elementary events need be implied, the improbability arising from the
    > large number of bifurcation events composing the influence in question,
    > be it in the creation of an individual human being, or in the evolution
    > of a novel functionality.

            God is the creator of everything - human beings, but also C-12 atoms,
    H2O molecules & stars.
    Scientifically we understand how nonliving things come into being a lot better
    than we do for living things. Theologically there is no reason to think that
    the origin of living systems requires direct & unmediated divine action any more
    than does than of non-living ones.



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

    > Peter
    > --
    > Dr Peter Ruest, <>
    > CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland
    > Biochemistry - Creation and evolution
    > -----------------------------------------------------------------
    > Creative providence in biology (Gen.2:3):
    > "..the work which God created (in order) to (actively) evolve it"
    > -----------------------------------------------------------------

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