Guilt by Association (tangential thread on theodicy)

From: Burgy (jwburgeson@juno.com)
Date: Tue May 13 2003 - 09:54:24 EDT

  • Next message: Gary Collins: "Books on history and philosophy of science"

    Howard -- your last question is tangential so I'll label the subject that way. The problem of theodicy exists in almost any theological construct (perhaps least in that of panentheism, as argued by David Ray Griffin). I don't know anyone who has a good answer to the natural disasters of the Lisbon earthquake (if God had been advanced or delayed just an hour or so then tens of thousands of hristians, worshipping on Easter morning, would not have been killed when their stone churches collapsed).

    As it happened, Metanexus published an essay on this just this morning, and I'm attaching it below. I have to think about it for awhile before I can fairly place the writer's ideas into my own theology. But at first reading it seems to hold together rather well.

    Participants and lurkers of this LISTSERV may do well by subscribing to the Metanexus series of essays (see the end of the article for how to do this -- it can be done free gratis). I find them terribly useful, as many views are accepted as worthy of discussion.

    Burgy

    Metanexus Views. 2003.05.12. 5848 Words.

    In this essay, entitled "A Natural Philosophy of Human Suffering," Mario
    Zatti argues that the universe is better understood as a deliberate
    creative
    project of love rather than of mere chance and accident. In this far
    reaching essay, Zatti discusses Darwinism, autopoiesis, quantum
    indeterminacy, the Anthropic Principle, and the problem of free will and
    suffering. He cites some thirty different scientists and philosopher in
    constructing this compelling and highly technical argument.

    In the course of the essay, Zatti argues against radical determinism and
    radical happenstance, promoting instead for an interpretation of the
    Anthropic Principle that includes free will and the necessity of natural
    evil and suffering, both in the form of natural mistakes and as a
    precondition for free will. He concludes:

    "Yet, if creation was a 'very good thing' in the eyes of the omnipotent,
    one
    should also consider that implicit suffering could also make sense within
    the context of a love that saves. Pain could begin to make sense if
    viewed
    in a context that takes account of the relationships between men and
    between
    each man and the Creator. The Creator's love is bent upon perfecting man
    in
    the very midst of his suffering."

    Mario Zatti is a professor in the Department of Clinical Biochemistry at
    Verona University in Verona, Italy.

    -- Editor

    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=
    A Natural Philosophy of Human Suffering
    Mario Zatti, Verona University
    <mariozatti@libero.it>

    Abstract

    The order and harmony of the universe can be much more easily reconciled
    with the iniquity of nature (incomprehensible natural calamities) if we
    consider that the universe is accidental and not something responding to
    a
    deliberate creative project. The exercise of free will, however, is
    possible
    only in the presence of a certain measure of indeterminacy, and this
    necessarily entails the possibility of unpredictable disaster. It must be
    said, then, in the light of the Anthropic Principle, that if man were to
    exist as a subject endowed with free will, then the iniquity of nature,
    pain
    and suffering would also have to exist. The latter are profoundly related
    to
    free will, not only because they may stem from an evil use of it, but
    also
    because they are the sine qua non for its very existence.

    Introduction

    In addition to the evil directly due to human perversity, we also witness
    the cruelty of nature. In addition to the victims of the ravages of war,
    we
    see those caused by the violence of hurricanes and earthquakes, or by the
    malignant nature of so many diseases. And it is by no means so easy for
    the
    rational mind to accept the many faces of nature itself, the beauty and
    order of which, according to many, are the expression of a creative
    divinity.

    Unquestionably, the harmony of the universe requires the changing of its
    parts, and St. Augustine identifies the fundamental limitation of being
    confined to a temporal existence as the metaphysical root of all evil.
    But
    St. Augustine himself, when recounting the death of Tagaste's
    twenty-year-old friend, expresses desperation, and an inability to
    attribute
    any meaning to it (Confessiones, IV).

    It is indeed comprehensible that the process of becoming and of being in
    time may already be a form of dying and suffering, but what is outrageous
    "is often the absurd way people die. Death does not always come about
    simply
    as a natural biological process, as when a ripe fruit drops from the
    bough,
    but often it occurs in circumstances which our sense of piety finds most
    repugnant" (Moschetti, 1989).
    It is this aspect of pain and suffering that we wish to address in this
    paper.

    "The tragic thing (...( is indeed tragic, in that, whenever an
    incomprehensible calamity occurs, it profoundly undermines any religious
    sentiment, giving rise to the suspicion of a profound disconnection of
    being
    ....". (ibid).

    The Darwinian response

    The Darwinian response is precisely along these lines.

    Natural philosophy, as suggested by post-Darwinian biology, is, in fact,
    mainly a philosophy of human desperation. As Jacques Monod says (1972),
    it
    is true that science attacks values; not directly, since it is no judge
    of
    values and has to ignore their existence, but it destroys all the
    ontogenetic myths or philosophies on which the animistic tradition has
    founded its values, morality, duties, rights and prohibitions. The
    ancient
    alliance is shattered; man is at long last aware of being alone in the
    indifferent immensity of the universe from which he has emerged by
    chance.

    In effect, there is no reason to wonder at the coexistence of harmony and
    precariousness if everything is governed by chance and the universe is
    accidental.

    The same philosophy has been voiced more recently by D.C. Dennett (1995)
    when he says: Darwin has changed forever what it means to ask and answer
    the
    question Why? There is no future for any of our sacred myths. And he
    cites a
    passage from Locke, defining it as the "conceptual block" existing prior
    to
    the Darwinian revolution ..."Matter can never begin to be; if we assume
    that
    it exists ab aeterno as Matter pure and simple without Motion, Motion
    cannot begin to be; if we assume that Matter and Motion are pre-existent
    or
    eternal, then Thought can never begin to be". Darwin, on the other hand,
    says: give me time, and I will produce evolution, complexification,
    design,
    and thought through a process of selection among mutations produced by
    chance.

    In the generalisation of the use of the algorithm (selection among
    equally
    probable variants) discovered by Darwin and which was then to become, in
    its
    application to prebiological and cosmological evolution, "omnivorous"
    (according to the definition suggested by Dennett himself) (Dennett,
    1995),
    lies the reason for the evolution of Darwinism itself from a scientific
    model to a fully fledged philosophy of chance and necessity.

    According to Atkins' application of this algorithm (Atkins, 1997)
    "...universes are created all the while and the present collection of
    universes is infinite". One deduces that it is necessary that our
    apparently
    ordered universe should exist, because, Atkins claims, "any event occurs,
    whatever its likelihood, so long as it is not absolutely impossible", or,
    in
    other words, the selection among infinite variants is a game where
    success
    is assured, a game in which the Darwinian algorithm leads to a kind of
    metaphysics which is the metaphysics of material actual infinity. [1]

    But with such arguments, i.e. invoking the condition of infinite time
    and/or matter, the concept of probability is annulled and everything can
    be
    demonstrated (Dembsky, 2002).

    Intrinsic laws of order of complex unities

    Darwinism ignores inner causes of evolution, preferential laws for the
    stability of structures without which, even if they formed, their
    permanence
    would not be explained, - forms, archetypes, attractors.

    The fundamental integration, for a theory of evolution, requires the
    acknowledgement of the unity of sets capable of self-organisation: thus,
    life may have originated in a kind of sudden phase change, in which a
    network of molecules, replicating by virtue of their interdependence,
    arose
    from a primitive set of independent chemical reactions (Kauffman, 1993).
    The
    emergence of collective behaviours allows the generation of new forms in
    the
    context of complexification.

    Biology also rediscovers its specificity in these concepts, above and
    beyond the reductionism that does not allow one to escape from a
    perspective
    of aggregates of components held together by fortunate accidental
    encounters
    in the process of environmental selection. What escapes from this
    perspective is the significance of formal unity, which today is
    understood
    and is increasingly the subject of thorough, in-depth investigation with
    the
    study of complex systems in their entirety (Prigogine and Stengers, 1979;
    Thom, 1975; Nicolis and Prigogine, 1989, Cramer, 1993; Kauffman, 1993).

    Let us recall that complexity (in the technical sense) appears in
    non-linear systems far from thermodynamic equilibrium (so-called
    dissipative
    systems, as are living beings). The maximum complexity can be represented
    as
    that of a structure containing an amount of information which cannot be
    compressed in an algorithm, or rather, which can be described only by an
    algorithm composed of a number of bits of information comparable to that
    of
    the structure itself: i.e. complexity corresponds to the size of the
    calculation program needed to describe it, and what is defined as
    fundamental complexity is that of a structure (e.g. a sequence) which,
    having no limits of symmetry, periodicity or redundance, but rather an
    aperiodic order, possesses for that very reason the prerequisite for the
    maximum possible information content, though no analytical expression
    thereof can be found.

    Monod, on failing to find it for the sequence of amino acids of a
    protein,
    deduced that it was a matter of absolute chance, taking no account of the
    brilliant definition which Erwin SchrÓdinger (1944) had used several
    years
    earlier to describe proteins, namely as "aperiodic crystals".

    Monod's natural philosophy has managed to make a powerful impact on the
    world view of many men, both scientists and non-scientists, and continues
    to
    do so. His philosophy, however, is based on totally erroneous
    assumptions.
    Monod expressed his faith in the absence of any design in the
    construction
    of the biological order, claiming that the message, though objectively
    laden
    with significance, contained in the sequence of 200 amino acids of a
    protein
    constituted by the 20 different types of amino acids available, is
    written
    by chance, by a "completely blind game", given that, even when knowing
    199
    amino acids, nobody would be able to say which one would be the
    two-hundredth. But this means identifying the non-blind game as
    redundance,
    or symmetry: conversely, symmetry may be a factor limiting the
    information
    content, such as, for instance, in the case of a homogeneous sequence
    made
    up of the monotonous repetition of a single symbol and which is
    characterised by the maximum symmetry, but certainly not by the maximum
    intelligence and creativity. The misunderstanding is explained if we
    recall
    that the mathematical quantification of entropy (entropy is a measure of
    disorder and is the logarithm of the number of possible microstates) is
    similar to that of complexity, and, in fact, the algorithmic
    non-compressibility of the information program required to specify an
    entirely random sequence, is analogous to the non-compressibility of that
    required to describe a sequence which is characterised by the maximum
    complexity, i.e. precisely owing to the lack of symmetry limits to the
    information content (non computability): the message in the protein is
    not
    the product of blind chance, but of the degree of complexity achieved,
    which
    finds its explanation in the principles of self-organisation and in form
    fields rather than in the sufficiency of time of a blind game (Zatti,
    1996).

    It is for these reasons that many aspects of the development of organisms
    and their evolution are profoundly robust, and the evolutionary path much
    less contingent than the Darwinists believe, because it is constrained by
    the topology of its own phase space.

    It is for these reasons that evolution, in a relatively short space of
    time, has been able to construct the sequence of 100 amino acids
    characteristic of cytochrome c with the 20 different types of amino acids
    available, choosing among all the possible sequences, and which, if one
    wanted to reproduce it by chance, making one attempt per second, would
    take
    10120 years to appear. A protein with 100 amino acids takes on
    spontaneously
    and practically instantaneously a highly specific and complex
    three-dimensional structure, capable of an intramolecular mobility that
    conditions its function. It has been calculated that a super computer
    applying plausible rules for the molecular refolding would take 10127
    years
    (to be added to the previous total!) to find the final form of such a
    protein (Casti, 1996) [2]. Nature does not find the problem of
    computability
    so difficult, and indeed it would seem clear that the self-organised
    states
    allowed by non-equilibrium physics are produced with probability one.

    Order from self-organisation is the result of a morphogenetic field, of
    attractor archetypes (Thom, 1975), albeit through the instability of
    motion
    associated with chaotic dynamics, which enables the system to explore its
    phase space, finding its forms there.

    This means that matter, as Cramer (Cramer, 1993) says, is "a priori
    filled
    with ideas". Let us return to the borderline with philosophy, which is no
    longer the philosophy of Monod, but that expressed in the title of
    Kauffman's work (Kauffman, 1995) "At Home in the Universe", a book which
    ends with "In the beginning was the Word".

    But if, as we have said, the incomprehensible calamity is not a problem
    in
    a philosophy of chance, the same cannot be said when one believes that in
    the beginning was the Word, i.e. the Law.

    This is a problem of meaning, and therefore philosophical and not
    scientific, but strictly implied by the demonstrable incompleteness of
    the
    natural order, and particularly of the biological order.

    The indeterminacy of the biological order

    The characteristic feature of biological machines is that they have
    mono-macromolecular instruments consisting of delicate, unstable organic
    molecules, which is fairly obvious if we think that their functional
    status
    would not be functional if it were distinctly stable.

    It is well known that quantum indeterminacy plays a role in events on a
    submicroscopic scale at the atomic/molecular level. If, however, the DNA
    molecule is involved and the genetic message contained in it is altered
    in
    the indeterminacy game, the effect of the molecular "mutation" is
    amplified
    and becomes macroscopic in the living organism which depends on the
    genetic
    message, written and transcribed in the molecular alphabet, but
    translated
    and reflected in the structure and functioning or malfunctioning of
    cells,
    tissues and organs.

    This amplifying action is a notable characteristic of the biological
    order,
    to the extent to which the phenotype depends on the genotype, i.e. on the
    informational macromolecules.

    Now, the force of the chemical bonds in a macromolecule may vary with the
    fluctuations in vibrational energy, responsible for an uncertainty
    domain,
    which allows the mutations to take place unpredictably.

    In the DNA replication process, the molecular chain that acts as a model
    has to form activated ternary complexes with the enzyme and with one of
    the
    four bases (nucleotides) that constitute the four letters of the alphabet
    of
    the genetic code, which are progressively mounted according to their
    compatibility with those of the model chain. The accuracy of the process
    is
    due to the specificity of the bonds (of intermolecular type) so that the
    correct coupling of a given base requires a ternary complex activation
    energy less than that required for the coupling of a "wrong" base.

    This difference in energy (also conditioned by the structural and
    superstructural constraints of the DNA) can be overcome, though with low
    probability, by the thermal fluctuations possible at physiological
    temperature and in physiological conditions: in this way, the confines of
    the pre-existing codified order, the barrier against "mutations", may be
    crossed. In non-physiological conditions, mutations can be facilitated or
    induced by a variety of "perturbations" caused by chemical and physical
    agents.

    The principles involved in the mutations are two:

    a) the second law of thermodynamics, which promotes replication errors as
    ways whereby configurational randomness is increased, and this ensures
    that
    there will be mutations;

    b) the quantum indeterminacy of thermal energy, for the reasons outlined
    above, and this ensures that the mutations occur by chance.

    Hence, the opening to evolution, but also at the same time necessarily to
    pain and suffering because in biology mistakes mean suffering, even in
    the
    form of the most incomprehensible calamity, such as the agony and death
    of a
    child.

    Submicroscopic indeterminacy has more than one way of reflecting itself
    on
    a macroscopic scale in the biological world: one way consists in the
    amplification that a molecular mutation of the genotype undergoes in the
    course of the phenotypic expression of the mutated gene. Another has to
    do
    with the statistical microevents that generate a kind of biochemical
    noise
    coupled, across a critical threshold, with cellular quantal macroevents
    by
    the law of all or nothing. This second behavioural mechanism dependent on
    (unpredictable) fluctuations comes into play when the number of
    intracellular ions or molecules involved is relatively low, and not if it
    is
    greater than 60,000 per cell. For example, the concentration of Ca(( in
    resting cells is approximately 100 nM, and therefore there are not more
    than
    20,000 in any given cell. The number of membrane receptors for many
    agonists
    is even lower and the number of channels for the transmembrane transport
    of
    the main cations in many cells is of the order of only a few hundred,
    etc.
    (Hallett, 1989). To give a familiar example, the rarefied atoms of a neon
    tube manifest a macroscopic behaviour at ignition consisting in the fact
    that they are all characterised by uncertainty. In the same way, given
    the
    above-mentioned role of receptors and ions in cell behaviours, these
    would
    not appear to be deterministic, in that, though they are observable on a
    large scale, they are related not to a mean of very large numbers of
    independent submicroscopic states, but to a small number or even only one
    of
    these microstates, each of which is governed by indeterminacy.

    Hence, in addition to the possibility of suffering as a mistake, we also
    have the guarantee, for the purposes of the exercise of freedom,
    consisting
    in a certain, albeit controlled degree of indeterminacy at the level of
    mental action on cerebral matter.

    In this connection, J.C. Eccles (1986) described the quantum uncertainty
    demonstrable in the junctions between neurons (synapses) in which the
    stimulus passes from one neuron to another via the release of biochemical
    quanta of neurotransmitters.

    These are contained in vesicles whose membrane can fuse, as a result of
    the
    actions produced by the nerve stimulus, with that of the junction
    (presynaptic membrane) causing the emptying of the vesicle and the
    emission
    of the neurotransmitter.

    One might understand that in the cortical synapses mental events (that is
    to say, intentions, acts of will) interfere with the likelihood of
    emission
    of these biochemical quanta, i.e. with the vesicles and thus with the
    neuronal activity, if one could apply the uncertainty equation of quantum
    states to the relationship between these vesicles and the presynaptic
    grid,
    i.e. in the prefusion stage. The mass of a synaptic vesicle, in fact, is
    not
    such as to exceed the limits of Heisenberg's uncertainty equation and
    therefore could be affected by the magnitude of the effect produced by a
    quantum mechanics probability wave. [3]

    Hameroff and Penrose (1996) suggested that consciousness may be related
    to
    a quantum wave function collapsing in structures in the brain's neurons
    called microtubules.

    According to Penrose (1989 and 1997), Swinburne (1986) and others, even
    if
    the only source of indeterminacy in the physical world were that of the
    quantum states, this would be enough to guarantee scope for
    non-computability, the possibility of behaviour unrelated to algorithmic
    processes allowing the exercise of human intelligence and freedom.

    This basically echoes the attempts made by the ancients Epicurus and
    Lucretius to describe the indeterminacy (clinamen) of the atomic motions
    as
    a justification of free will. Be that as it may, we are talking about an
    unpredictability related to amplifications on a macroscopic scale of
    submicroscopic fluctuations, whether such amplifications be related to
    non-linear dynamics in the presence of non-equilibrium constraints, or
    cellular quantal events, produced according to the law of all or nothing,
    as
    a result of a threshold effect, when the threshold is crossed by
    fluctuations governed by indeterminacy.

    The cerebral hardware thus contains the conditions necessary for man to
    exercise his freedom, i.e. his creative causality freed in some way from
    the
    laws of determinism, - necessary, but perhaps not sufficient conditions
    for
    the exercise of freedom.

    Thomistic philosophy justifies the possibility of freedom only if the
    causes
    per s« needed for the production of an effect are in s« contingent, with
    the
    result that "the effect in relation to the cause of a physical process,
    unlike the consequence in relation to the premise in a logical procedure,
    will not derive unequivocally from its existence. If everything is
    predetermined right from the outset [...] man's freedom becomes an
    illusion"
    (Basti, 1995).

    If the matter of which our bodies and particularly our brains are
    composed
    totally obeyed the laws of causal determinism, as Laplace believed, every
    neural event would have a proportionate physical cause, in turn related
    to
    other previous causes, with the result that one could hardly postulate
    neural events (with their behavioural correlates) not determined by the
    chain of physical causes. Any exercise of freedom would be precluded.

    But some domain of relative indeterminacy would appear to exist.

    We have also demonstrated that these conditions of indeterminacy, being
    widely represented in the laws of matter, also imply the occurrence of
    events of the "incomprehensible calamity" type, events involving
    suffering
    and death which therefore appear to us as the hard price that the matter
    of
    this universe has had to pay in order to accommodate the existence of
    free
    subjects (Zatti, 1994).

    Suffering, which is implicit in the conditions described, would be
    useless
    and absurd if there were not a subject free to exercise
    self-determination.
    The problem of freedom thus becomes crucial: if man only had an illusion
    of
    free choice, every incomprehensible calamity would, in fact, remain
    incomprehensible, and all suffering would be totally absurd, at least for
    a
    non-casual natural philosophy.

    Physicists today talk about the "anthropic principle" to interpret the
    universe (Bertola and Curi Eds, 1993). According to this principle, for
    the
    presence of observers such as ourselves to be possible, this universe had
    to
    be in certain respects exactly what it is: there had to be strictly
    mandatory initial conditions, a series of unlikely coincidences,
    thermostatically regulated planets, stars capable of constant energy
    radiation for billions of years, etc. With a slight shift in viewpoint,
    one
    application of the anthropic principle might be the following: if the
    observers such as ourselves had to be subjects endowed with freedom, then
    it
    was necessary that the matter of the universe should not be strictly
    conditioned by deterministic laws, thereby proving as rigid as the bars
    of a
    prison; on the contrary, it would have had to guarantee a setting
    characterised to some extent by aleatory processes, by non-determination,
    with scope and means whereby the influence of free will could be
    exercised,
    so that mental events could cause neural events.

    Yet matter not completely determined in the succession of possible
    events,
    though capable of serving as a support for subjects endowed with freedom
    of
    action, is, however, a clock that may not keep good time; it is a device
    subject to error and therefore to pain. The application of the anthropic
    principle thus enables us to say: for the presence of free observers such
    as
    ourselves to be possible this universe had to be as it is; it had to be a
    place of pain.

    Every sort of suffering is therefore causally related to freedom, either
    because it can be caused by potentially defective free will - the curse
    of
    Cain - or because the very existence of freedom, of free subjects, in
    this
    universe is permitted solely by that algorithmic incompleteness which
    also
    permits catastrophes to happen and which is described today by the
    theories
    of indeterminacy and chaos. The laws governing nature are not rigidly
    deterministic, but leave ample scope for indeterminacy and
    unpredictability
    and therefore for incomprehensible calamities (also in the case of a
    calamity that can only be indirectly attributed to the creativity of
    evolution in its more strictly Darwinian aspects, which are most
    certainly
    not annulled by the self-organizing capacities that trace the main lines
    of
    the evolutionary process). Only matter of this type, moreover, can permit
    the existence of subjects capable of exercising freedom in this universe
    (Zatti, 1994).

    At this point a question arises that would appear to be harder to answer:
    do the flexibility, plasticity and indeterminacy permitted or amplified
    by
    chaotic dynamics and certainly necessary for the exercise of freedom also
    constitute a sufficient condition for it?

    The question can be summed up as follows. The problem of free choice has
    to
    do with the possibility that a system possessing indeterminacy or
    fundamental instability, such as that of the neural networks, may be
    oriented in such a way that, after the choice has been made, it may find
    itself in one of its 2n possible states, inasmuch as this compression
    (reduction of entropy) corresponds to the act of free will. Every time
    the
    reduction of entropy of the synaptic states, operated by a mental choice,
    takes place, it will necessarily be accompanied (as the laws of
    thermodynamics teach us) by heat exchanges with the environment or by
    equivalent variations of the entropy of a memory. If the system is
    material,
    in fact, it has to expend energy in order to effect the instability
    orientation (reduction of entropy), which hypothetically should
    correspond
    to the act of free will: that is to say, the system should want to expend
    energy, and therefore the free act would be prior to and different from
    the
    instability orientation and also from the related expenditure of energy
    itself. But what would it be? One would have to resort to infinity.

    This can be avoided if we have a system that does not require physical
    means in the act of choosing: what is needed is an uncaused causality, an
    immaterial intelligence that any exclusively physical system (in which
    for
    every bit of information deleted there must simultaneously be a
    dissipated
    energy of kT loge 2) (Landauer, 1988) does not possess and is not. Or man
    is
    not free (Dennett, 1991).

    Pain and creative omnipotence

    The creative choice has proved doubly limiting in relation to original
    omnipotence because 1) it contemplates the existence of free subjects,
    and
    2) it allows a measure of chance that introduces contingency and the
    unpredicted, thereby limiting the action of fixed mathematical laws.
    Man's
    freedom is permitted by the "freedom" of nature. The introduction of
    stochasticity at a fundamental level (the intrinsically statistical
    character of atomic events) may imply, albeit within a limited framework,
    a
    kind of attenuation of the principle of sufficient reason, given that
    "each
    individual quantistic event can be genuinely unpredictable, whereas a
    collection of such events conforms to the statistical predictions of
    quantum
    mechanics" (Davies, 1992).

    On the one hand, there is clearly an "impressive symmetry" underlying the
    universe, but, on the other, we see that the symmetries "are invariably
    quasi-symmetries and that the minor violations we observe are just as
    necessary for our existence" (Barrow and Silk, 1983). There is then a
    small
    but fundamental scope left to "indeterministic causes" or - and it comes
    to
    the same thing - partially outside the principle of sufficient reason,
    scope
    for creativity left to the created, and which is also occurrence of (non
    creation of) evil; lack of participated being, i.e., good; penetration of
    the Nothingness (das Nichtige; Barth, 1950) into evolution. In view of
    the
    freedom of living creatures, God has had to leave a part of creation to
    chance (to dem Nichtiges).

    In this regard, the conceptual difficulty of omnipotence as it is
    habitually understood is both well-known and dates back to ancient times,
    from Epicurus to H. Jonas (Venturini. 2000) and is shared by R. Pannikar
    (1999). "Suffering exists only to the extent that God is not omnipotent
    ..."
    (Jonas, 1987). Apart from suffering due directly to the action of men, it
    is, in fact, not merely related to the finiteness of creation, but also a
    matter of privation of due perfection since the algorithmic
    incompleteness
    and indeterminacy that are the cause of it are not necessary qualities of
    finite matter. They become necessary, as stated above, in order to
    guarantee
    the possibility of free self-determination and it is for this purpose and
    for this good that the Creator has left part of creation to chance.
    According to N. Venturini (2000), "it is necessary that there [...] be a
    link between the superior good desired and the evil permitted of such a
    nature that it is not possible to want the one without permitting the
    other,
    but we have not been allowed to grasp the nature of this link". Isn't
    this
    pessimism perhaps excessive?

    M. Ruse (2001) provides reasons and examples that demonstrate that
    natural
    ills cannot be avoided if living beings have to be part of nature as
    sentient beings, and concludes; "The hard nature of physical existence
    and
    being is not therefore a rebuke against an all-powerful God".

    To have a metaphysics of freedom, there must be a Creator who as such is
    a
    free agent. If the creative choice has wanted man to be free, then it
    must
    have seen his suffering, i.e. the prerequisite of his freedom, as
    basically
    "a very good thing" (Gen 1, 31). According to Ruse (2001), "No sound
    argument has been mounted showing that Darwinism implies atheism". It
    seems
    to me, on the contrary, that the Christian believer needs (also) chance,
    hence Darwinism, to solve the classic problem of theology, the problem of
    pain.

    In any event there remains a difficulty in relation to omnipotence,
    namely,
    why is pain (in the form of a calamity) not overcome by miracles? To what
    extent can respect of the Creator for creation and its laws be a factor?
    There can be no doubt that respect for the freedom of living creatures
    made
    in His image in flesh and blood must allow them the power to decide to
    accomplish independently determined deeds even if these entail suffering
    and
    calamities. Can there be any miraculous salvation for those who suffer
    ill
    at the hands of nature, whose "freedom" could be annulled on any
    opportune
    occasion? But if Abel cannot be saved, can one in all justice save a man
    who
    is killed by a tiger? Or by a hurricane? Can an infant child at least be
    saved from leukaemia? But up to what age?

    Yet, if creation was a "very good thing" in the eyes of the omnipotent,
    one
    should also consider that implicit suffering could also make sense within
    the context of a love that saves. Pain could begin to make sense if
    viewed
    in a context that takes account of the relationships between men and
    between
    each man and the Creator. The Creator's love is bent upon perfecting man
    in
    the very midst of his suffering (Varillon, 1981).

    Notes

    1 A number of Darwinists claim that causally isolated new universes
    originate from the black holes of previous universes, from which they
    differ
    to some extent, and this "filiation" with random variations and
    multiplications lends itself to the application of the Darwinian
    algorithm,
    in that the physical constants that favour the formation of black holes
    correspond to those necessary for the formation of stars, planets and
    living
    forms (J. Maynard Smith, E. Szathmary, "On the Likelihood of Habitable
    Worlds", in Nature 1990, 384, 107): the most suitable universes for the
    appearance of life would be those which have more black holes and
    therefore
    multiply more often.

    2 The age of the universe is 1.5 x 1010 years.

    3 Analysis of the synaptic transmissions of the CNS has revealed possible
    influences of changes in the postsynaptic membrane, taking all due
    account,
    however, of the presynaptic significance of some of the parameters (n,
    number of active zones; l, likelihood of release of a quantal package).
    Cfr.
    H. Korn, D.S. Faber, "Quantal analysis and synaptic efficacy in the CNS",
    in
    Trends in Neurosciences 1991, 14, 439-445; cfr. also J.M. Bekkers, C.H.
    Stevens, "Presynaptic mechanisms for long-term potentiation in the
    hippocampus", in Nature 1990, 346, 724-729; R. Malinow, R.W. Tsien,
    "Presynaptic enhancement shown by whole-cell recordings of long-term
    potentiation in hippocampal slices" in Nature 1990, 346, 177-180. The
    critical point of the neuronal activity is activation of
    voltage-dependent
    Ca2+ channels and the subsequent presynaptic exocytosis of the
    neurotransmitter, contained in vesicles whose protein p65 interacts with
    the
    syntaxins of the active zone of the presynaptic membrane. The literature
    describes quantal variability of these junctional activities, stochastic
    properties of the interactions between receptors and transmitters, the
    possibility of interference of various types with the efficiency of
    communication between nerve cells (D.S. Faber et al., in Science 1982,
    258,
    1494; P. Greengard et al., in Science 1993, 259, 780). One of the
    variables
    consists in changes in the number of vesicles in the reserve pool
    compared
    with the number that can be released in a synaptic ending with a
    transition
    regulated by the phosphorylation/dephosphorylation of a protein. By and
    large, it can be said that there are multiple fluctuation settings
    potentially subject to the influence of a quantum mechanics probability
    wave. See also the interesting recent review of D. Choquet and A. Triller
    in
    Nature Rev. Neuroscience 2003, 4, 251-265 and its references.

    REFERENCES

    Atkins P.W., Creation Revisited, Freeman, Oxford 1997, p. 134.

    Barrow J.D., Silk J., The Left Hand of Creation, Basic Books, New York
    1983.

    Barth K., Gott und das Nichtige, in: Die Kirchliche Dogmatic,
    Theologischer
    Verlag, Zurich 1950.

    Basti G., Filosofia dell' uomo, Edizioni Studio Domenicano, Bologna 1995,
    pp. 264-65.

    Bertola F., Curi U. eds, The Anthropic Principle, Cambridge University
    Press, Cambridge 1993.

    Casti J.L., Confronting Science's Logical Limits, Sci. American 275 (4),
    1996, pp. 78-81.

    Cramer F., Chaos and Order, VCH, Weinheim 1993.

    Davies P., The Mind of God, Simon & Schuster, London 1992, pp. 192-93.

    Dembski W.A., No Free Lunch, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham 2002, pp.
    83-100.

    Dennett D.C., Darwin's Dangerous Idea, The Sciences 35, 1995, pp. 34-40.

    Dennett D.C., Consciousness Explained, Little, Brown 1991.

    Eccles J.C., Do Mental Events Cause Neural Events Analogously to the
    Probability Fields of Quantum Mechanics? Proc. R. Soc. London B 227,
    1986,
    pp. 411-428.

    Hallett M.B., Unpredictability of Cellular Behaviour, Persp. Biol. Med.
    33/1, 1989, pp. 110/119.

    Hameroff S., Penrose R., Orchestrated reduction of quantum coherence in
    brain microtubules - a model for consciousness, in: Toward a Science of
    Consciousness, eds Hameroff S., Kaszniak A. and Scott A., MT Press,
    Cambridge MA 1996.

    Kauffman S.A., The Origins of Order, Oxford University Press, Oxford
    1993.

    Kauffman S.A., At Home in the Universe, Oxford University Press, Oxford
    1995.

    Jonas H.,.Der Gottesbegriff nach Auschwitz. Eine Judische Stimme, Inserl
    Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1987.

    Landauer R, Dissipation and Noise Immunity in Computation and
    Comunication,
    Nature, 335,1988, pp. 779-84

    Maynard Smith J. and Szathmary E., On the Likelihood of Habitable Worlds,
    Nature 384, 1996, p. 107.

    Monod J., Chance and Necessity, Collins, London 1972.

    Moschetti A., E Agostino mi risponde, Gregoriana, Padova 1989.

    Nicolis G., Prigogine I., Exploring Complexity, Freeman, New York 1989.

    Panikkar R., La pienezza dell'uomo, Jaca Book, Milano 1999, pp. 140-41.

    Penrose R., The Emperor's New Mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford,
    1989.

    Penrose R., The Large, the Small and the Human Mind, Cambridge University
    Press, Cambridge 1997.

    Prigogine I., Stengers I., La Nouvelle Alliance, Gallimard, Poitiers
    1979.

    Ruse M., Can a Darwinian be a Christian? Cambridge University Press,
    Cambridge 2001, p. 128.

    SchrÓdinger E., What is Life?, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
    1944.

    Swinburne R., The Evolution of the Soul, Oxford University Press, Oxford
    1986.

    Thom R., Structural Stability and Morphogenesis, Benjamin, Reading MA
    1975.

    Varillion F., Joie de croire joie de vivre, Edition du Centurion, Paris
    1981.

    Venturini N., Perch« il male?, Rubettino, Catanzaro 2000.

    Zatti M., Il dolore (nel) creato, Dehoniane, Bologna 1994.

    Zatti M., Il caso e la complessit÷, Kos XIII, 1996, pp. 36-41.

    =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
    This publication is hosted by Metanexus Online
    <http://www.metanexus.net>.
    The views expressed here do notnecessarily reflect those of Metanexus or
    its sponsors. To comment on this message, go to the browser-based forum
    at the bottom of all postings in the magazine section of our web site.

    Metanexus welcomes submissions between 1000 to 3000 words of essays
    and book reviews that seek to explore and interpret science and religion
    in
    original and insightful ways for a general educated audience. Previous
    columns give a good indication of the topical range and tone for
    acceptable
    essays. Please send all inquiries and submissions to
    <editor@metanexus.net>.

    Copyright notice: Columns may be forwarded, quoted, or republished in
    full
    with attribution to the author of the column and "Metanexus: The Online
    Forum
    on Religion and Science <http://www.metanexus.net>". Republication for
    commercial purposes in print or electronic format requires the permission
    of the author. Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 by William
    Grassie.

    ________________________________________________________________
    The best thing to hit the internet in years - Juno SpeedBand!
    Surf the web up to FIVE TIMES FASTER!
    Only $14.95/ month - visit www.juno.com to sign up today!



    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Tue May 13 2003 - 09:55:58 EDT