Re: Randomness

From: Terry M. Gray (
Date: Fri May 24 2002 - 15:22:15 EDT

  • Next message: James Taggart: "RE: Randomness"


    I don't think that Jonathan or Loren or anyone else citing Proverbs
    16:33 is suggesting this as a means of decision-making.

    We're simply saying that even in random events like the casting of
    lots (random in the sense that they follow the laws of statistics)
    that God determines the outcome. Thus from God's point of view there
    is no randomness.

    This applies to dice-rolling, lot casting, the statistics of genetics
    (my kids all had a 50:50 chance of being a boy or a girl, but God
    determined which one they would be), which DNA bases are affected by
    a mutagen, which organisms in a population dies in some catastrophic
    event (where selection plays no role in survival), etc. We're saying
    that God is in control even of these apparently random events. This
    is why Jonathan finds this to be a great source of reassurance and
    comfort...we believe that things that appear to be rooted in random
    causes and not to make any sense are rooted in God's purposes and

    Thus we must distinguish between randomness and purposelessness from
    man's perspective and randomness and purposelessness from God's
    perspective. From all appearances, the sorts of things that create
    variation for natural selection to work on in evolution (mutations,
    recombination, independent assortment, etc.) appear to operate
    according to the laws of statistics, i.e. they are random. They are
    also purposeless in the sense that the random event is not happening
    in order to produce an end result. This is how things are described
    from a scientific point of view.

    This does not mean, howeve,r that they are random and purposeless
    from God's perspective (and ours from a theological perspective). As
    God determines the outcome of the casting of the lots, God determines
    the outcome of mutations, recombinations, and other random physical,
    chemical, and biological events. The result is that God's precise
    purposes are accomplished in the evolution of life.

    I know that my strong view of God's sovereignty described here does
    not speak for everyone. It is highly compatible with my general
    theological (Calvinistic) and philosophical orientation. I think the
    19th century Calvinists had a much easier time accepting Darwin's
    theory because of this. Darwin struggled with the theodicy question
    and could not come to view God as being in such control because of
    that. Historic Calvinists (and others) have "dealt" with the theodicy
    question to their satisfaction and so the existence of theodicy in
    evolutionary considerations is just another already solved case.

    These issues continue to be with us to this day. I think that one of
    the motivations for Howard Van Till's exploration of process theology
    (and the process theologians themselves) is this question of
    theodicy. "Why do bad things happen to good people?" -- "God can't be
    in control or it would be his fault," they say. So we end up with a
    God who isn't in control, who merely persuades (rather than coerces
    [not my words]), who can't stop bad things from happening to good
    people, etc.

    I prefer to just bite the bullet with respect to theodicy (as the
    Bible seems to) and affirm that God is fully in control, that God is
    good and just, that God's ways are not our ways, that we are not God
    and cannot fully comprehend his ways, etc.

    Hope this helps.


    >Jonathan Clarke wrote:
    >> Hi Walter
    >> You wrote in part:
    >> > I've seen that before (on an ASA website) and I think that it is a bit
    >> > scary. If I take you literally, I should just toss a coin for my
    >> > decisions knowing that nothing is random and God is in charge of the
    >> > outcome of the coin flip.
    >> >
    >> > No Thanks :)
    >> >
    >> Why do you find this scary? I find it a great source of reassurance and
    >> comfort in the greatness and sovereignty of God.
    >I just find it to be overly presumptuous to think that God would answer
    >my prayers or questions by communicating via the toss of a coin. If you
    >make your decisions that way, perhaps you could give some examples of
    >how well it has worked for you.
    >Walt Hicks <>
    >In any consistent theory, there must
    >exist true but not provable statements.
    >(Godel's Theorem)
    >You can only find the truth with logic
    >If you have already found the truth
    >without it. (G.K. Chesterton)

    Terry M. Gray, Ph.D., Computer Support Scientist
    Chemistry Department, Colorado State University
    Fort Collins, Colorado  80523
    phone: 970-491-7003 fax: 970-491-1801

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