Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback

From: Jim Armstrong (
Date: Thu Feb 06 2003 - 12:19:18 EST

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    Thanks Don for your thoughtful reply. Yeh, I sorta figgered that might
    be the case in your use of "random", but it seems to be used so much by
    folks who are discounting evolutionary processes I thought I'd plunk on
    that string for a moment. :-)

    WRT "creator may not have anything to do.", that's not quite the idea.
    The line of query I'm pondering at the moment just takes the
    self-working natural process idea to its limit.
    I'm not committed to the idea. But going down this path for a moment, I
    would only resonate with the Davies' statement per se if it was
    suggesting that not only the capacity, but the intent for something like
    us was "engineered" into the roadmap for creation's unfolding. I guess
    that's intelligent design of the lower case sort.

    I was not positing that God is presently inactive in creation. Instead I
    was pondering in what way or ways God might be actively at work IF it
    were that case that the "natural" world was doing what it was supposed
    to do with little or no intervention. [I hasten to add that I try not to
    draw any "natural"/"supernatural" dividing line.] In what corner of
    Creation might God then be working?

    An underlying proposition (working postulate?) seems to be much like
    yours, I think. I don't like the ultimate clockwork idea because
    creation seems to be so purposeful in its creativity. It seems to be
    going somewhere, toward some ultimate end (which we may or may not
    understand in any significant way). So for this line of enquiry
    (following my gut instinct) I assume that God is still active somehow,
    in some way, much (all?) of the time. I further suppose that at least
    some of this activity involves us. So what might he be doing? It's not
    as sterile a proposition as one might think.

    Actually, at its roots, this whole exploration was triggered in part by
    something like your statement, "My personal faith requires God to be
    involved at least weakly every step of the way." I have a similar
    feeling, but was taking a steely-eyed think about the "weak" aspect of
    God's interaction with us (if I understand what you meant by that). I
    decided to wonder a bit if we might be missing some important point
    through some assumptions and perhaps even "excuses" for God's apparent
    (but perhaps not necessarily actual!) weak/intermittant interaction with
    us. There are some interesting possibilities, but their clarity and
    articulation are still pretty much in the formative stages for me and
    are perhaps for another day.

    Regards - Jim Armstrong

    Don Winterstein wrote:

    >Thanks for your response, and sorry it's taken so long to get back to you.
    >Actually, when I used "randomness" to refer to the emergence of species, it
    >was a code word standing for the scientific mechanism of evolution, which as
    >you know involves random mutation guided by natural selection. Natural
    >selection, of course, constrains the processes to be quite other than
    >strictly random; but their outcomes are still "haphazard."
    >You accept God as creator, but I get the impression from what you say that
    >the creator may not have anything to do. Do you possibly accept that the
    >properties of energy/matter from the Big Bang are such that intelligent
    >beings arise necessarily from strictly natural processes? In other words,
    >that God up until Adam's time had no input except at the Big Bang? Such
    >would be consistent with Paul Davies' fond speculation that ".the laws of
    >the universe [may] have engineered their own comprehension."
    >My personal faith requires God to be involved at least weakly every step of
    >the way. We can't prove he was involved, but no one can prove he wasn't.
    >To say he wasn't involved is to argue for atheism, unless you hold that God
    >did all that was necessary at the Big Bang. But if God was involved, the
    >conundrum is the haphazardness. Anyway, that's how I see it.
    >----- Original Message -----
    >From: "Jim Armstrong" <>
    >To: <>
    >Sent: Friday, January 24, 2003 2:06 PM
    >Subject: Re: BIBLE/ORIGINS: seeking feedback
    >>Thank you Don for the nicely articulated introduction. I am also a
    >>recent arrival on the thread. We appear to be at somewhat the same place
    >>in life, except I hail from a physics/engineering career.
    >>Boy, I really identify with the substance and tone of the first ten or
    >>so paragraphs, and in particular the observations regarding the word of
    >>God and infallibility.
    >>But I wanted to respond to the evolution matter.
    >>Unlike yourself, I was struck early on by the simplicity and elegance of
    >>the organic evolution process and the principles that guide it. At the
    >>time, my sense was that the "specialness" of man came as God breathed
    >>into him something that he was not as a biological entity. I saw the
    >>organic evolution process as a pretty simple "how" insight into the
    >>creation process. Even in my high school days, with no particular
    >>guidance one way or the other, I sensed that the Genesis timing was
    >>metaphorical. Consequently, I felt no conflict between scripture and
    >>evolution, even though this was not the mainstream thinking of my church
    >>The word "random" commonly used in discussions like these was perhaps
    >>better rendered by your use of "haphazard". First of all, I don't think
    >>we stand on a tall enough box to pronounce a characterization like that.
    >>But I really react to both words because they do not properly
    >>characterize the biological processes of evolution. The course of
    >>evolution and its processes are in fact guided by many constraints
    >>(e.g., molecular, chemical, electrical, thermal, environmental, social,
    >>etc.) and therefore the word "random" at the outset does not apply. That
    >>said, it is more reasonable that one could perceive the progression of
    >>the evolutionary tree as haphazard, with its terminated branches and
    >>ever-changing and non-optimal "designs". Indeed, some folks have sadly
    >>just concluded that the whole thing is aimless in its wandering and
    >>pointless in objectives. But I would suggest that it isn't in fact
    >>haphazard at all, but that it is very obediently following its own
    >>internal guidance system, as intended.
    >>But more to the point, the world of mathematics (of all things!) has
    >>shown us some very interesting and insightful things in recent years,
    >>particularly from the studies of complexities and chaos. One such
    >>insight is that it takes only a very small number of "rules" (starting
    >>conditions, operational constraints, etc.) to cause a structured and
    >>predetermined outcome in a dynamic system, while leaving degrees of
    >>freedom with respect to how that outcome is achieved. An fun
    >>illustration resides something called the Chaos Game. It is misnamed (it
    >>has to do with fractals and not much with chaos per se), but it shows
    >>how exceedingly spartan starting conditions (3 dots not in a line), one
    >>rule, and one simple action repeated (hundreds or thousands of times)
    >>can produce an astonishingly structured and interesting result, even
    >>when randomness is introduced through use of a dice throw.
    >>A good description of the "game" may be found at
    >>and an excellent automated illustration is at
    >>where you can mess with the layout of the starting points or even add a
    >>new point one if you wish.
    >>Our universe is exquisitly simple at its foundations - a 3-dimensional
    >>space and time dimension, 3 quarks as building blocks for all of matter
    >>as we know it, four forces ("rules") to guide the way they interact
    >>(gravity, weak and strong interactions and electromagnetism) and an
    >>infusion of energy (matter in its other costume) to make things happen.
    >>And just look what incredible music this simple orchestra has created!!
    >>One of the best-known concepts to flow from the studies of chaos and
    >>complexity is the sensitivity of a system to changes in any part of the
    >>system (the flap of the butterfly wing). It is even more sensitive to
    >>its starting conditions. When suitably designed, very chaotic and
    >>complex systems can be made to move toward particular and predefined
    >>outcomes without prescribing or even necessarily knowing what path the
    >>system will take to get there. There can be a gazillion alternative ways
    >>for the system to drive to its ultimate desired outcome, and the way
    >>such a system picks its way through its options to its objective could
    >>very well be described as haphazard.
    >>There are many systems embodying so-called attractor attributes
    >>-"attracting" (or determing in some way at some level) the system to
    >>some desired state or outcome. It may even proceed from that state or
    >>outcome to another objective. This is very real behavior. Your heart is
    >>one such system. It has a attractors that operate in a sequence to
    >>specific states, the lub and dub being the evidence of two of them
    >>(contractions). The attractor behavior of the heart system allows it to
    >>resume natural function even when the rhythm is momentarily disturbed by
    >>something like a hard fall on your chest. To relate a little bit better
    >>to the higher topic of our discussion, if you look at any snapshop of
    >>such a system (at a given time, or some subset of the system), it might
    >>be pretty difficult to glean from that snapshot what the objective of
    >>the system is, thought you might get some idea of how it is happening.
    >>But it is happening any, whether or not we can fathom its ends.
    >>Finally, another very recent insight from this same world of mathematics
    >>and simulation was a big surprise. It has been known for some time that
    >>a single rule (or very small number of simple rules) embodied in a
    >>complex system could cause a system to self-organize (like those just
    >>discussed) and subsequently behave in a structured way. The huge
    >>surprise is the finding that one does not even need a single rule!! The
    >>beingness of the elements, the nature of them, is sufficient to cause
    >>them to self-organize when energy is introduced, even without the rules.
    >>All of this is to say that "haphazard" is a description that one might
    >>reasonably apply to the active evolving workings of creation, IF we only
    >>view a portion of its workings. That absolutely does not preclude,
    >>however, that there is a bigger picture at work. The bulk of the natural
    >>world portion of its workings may very well be operating primarily in
    >>accordance with starting conditions and rules laid down at the very
    >>beginning. [In fact, there are some very interesting insights emerging
    >>as to the necessary number of conditions imposed at the "big bang"
    >>itself - there seem to be only a few of them, and some of them appear to
    >>be required to left "loose", to be determined by the system itself as it
    >>evolves - introducing randomness and maybe even choice (of a sort) from
    >>the very outset]. Evolution follows a few simple rules and in that sense
    >>is quite deliberate in its operation. But, the paths it may explore are
    >>many, and convoluted, and with many dead ends. It's just the way the
    >>natural world was designed to do its job.
    >>The evidence pouring from the Human Genome project and a huge and
    >>dynamic body of collateral work just weighs too heavily in favor of
    >>affirming the natural evolution of all living kind in one continuous
    >>piece of cloth - an incredibly luminous and creative fabric stretched on
    >>an unimaginably generous and still active loom. Our trust is in the loom
    >>builder and we need not distrust the picture of evolution, and the
    >>increasing resolution of the picture of its operation provided by
    >>efforts like the Human Genome Project (headed by a practicing and
    >>articulate Christian, Francis Collins). We are privileged to view it (or
    >>more correctly, a portion of it), and it's just one more awe-inspiring
    >>insight into the way God conducts his creative business in the natural
    >>Jim Armstrong

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