Re: Random from Professing evolution column

From: Don Winterstein (
Date: Wed Feb 12 2003 - 18:36:05 EST

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    David Campbell wrote:
    > New species emerge all the time. There is no physical evidence that the
    occurrence of the mutations involved (if any) cannot be mathematically
    described by a probabilistic function.

    OK, and when the really big changes occurred all those times way back when, even if God had implemented a highly nonrandom series of events in each case, scientific observers would still be forced to say, even if such a sequence looked nonrandom, that what happened was unlikely--a statistical fluctuation--but nevertheless in no way violated the basic randomness assumption! So, yes, the scientific description would presumably always fit randomness even if a short sequence of a large, random matrix was highly nonrandom. I guess that's a theological problem with randomness: We can never disprove strict randomness (meaning no intelligent input), as long as we're dealing with an underlying process that is random, even if the truly random (i.e., unintelligent) part would never be able to cause the kinds of major changes in life forms that we see. Very interesting.

    >On the other hand, theologically I think that every mutation is determined
    >by God. .Thus, random appears to me to be
    >a good scientific descriptor of certain aspects of evolution but a poor
    >theological descriptor of evolution at an ultimate level.

    The world is rigidly determined but appears to evolve randomly.

    > How would you distinguish between a mutation "known to be random in the
    scientific sense" and one that is not?

    Can't. That's one of several reasons why the test I suggested would not be practicable.

    > Part of the issue is the extent to which we assume that everything is

    This is a key point. I'd now characterize your view of evolution as a
    process that is rigidly determined by God but described by people as
    random. I could live with this, but my own view is that God is not that
    much of a (pardon the expression) control freak. I prefer to see God as punctuating the equilibrium, now that I've decided that's how God works in the world.

    Thanks for leading me to these insights.



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