Re: Van Till's Grand Canyon

Date: Mon Sep 22 2003 - 12:04:11 EDT

  • Next message: bivalve: "Re: Hitler was a Creationist"

    Howard had written:

    ====Quote HVT=====================
    By the way, when Richard quoted my examples of the universe's formational
    capabilities he seems to have "forgotten" a significant portion of the
    slide. here's the full page:



    * quarks<> nucleons<> nuclei <> different nuclei
    * nuclei + electrons <> atoms
    * atoms <> molecules <> different molecules
    * atoms & molecules <> galaxies, stars & planets
    * molecular ensembles <> cells
    * cells <> more complex organisms
    * organisms <> different organisms
    * organisms <> ecosystems, etc.

    Note: since our current knowledge is incomplete, we must sprinkle a number
    of ?'s throughout the list.


    The qualification at the bottom is something that I think is essential. We
    should not claim to know more than we do, and we should label
    presuppositions "presuppositions," not something that we "know" with
    certainty, or something that "must be true." Anyone who has read my essay in
    the December, 2002, issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
    (the Journal of the ASA, the sponsor of this list) would be aware of my
    consistent reminders of this qualification.
    ====End Quote HVT===================

    I wonder what meaning is intended when a person writes "forgotten" in
    quotes. It seems Howard is suggesting that I had some less than exemplary
    rhetorical motive for not including the note at the bottom of his list. In
    truth, it simply didn't occur to me, and in hindsight I can see why. The
    "question marks" Howard says should be "sprinkled throughout the list"
    presumably should be sprinkled on both sides of the Grand Canyon divinding
    Physics and Biology. Howard seems to deny that there is any special
    distinction to be made between physical and biotic evolution. This means
    that his "question marks" are not relevant to my point which focuses on the
    fundamental distinction between Physics and Biology, namely, that physical
    evolution can be fully understood in terms of energetical considerations,
    whereas biotic evolution involves contingency and information.

    For example, it seems to me that there is no mystery (in principle) in the
    formation of molecules from atoms. Chemical evolution follows strict
    equations, and even when we can't (or don't care to) solve the exact
    equations, we can calculate the end product through energetical
    considerations. Nothing looks specifically designed. No rare, strange events
    need to be postulated. Our understanding is satisfied. And here's the
    clincher: The end result is essentially independent of its history.
    Contingency is irrelevent. All paths lead to maximal entropy so it doesn't
    matter where you start, we can predict where you will end up. This is an
    essential aspect of energetically driven Physics.

    The situation with Biology is completely different. We have machine-like
    structures that read, write, and use information to organize, maintain, and
    reproduce themselves. The resulting structures are completely dependent on
    the contingencies of their history. While the *functioning* of the physical
    structures involved in biotic systems can all be explained energetically,
    their origin and evolution can not be so explained. The structures can not
    be predicted by energetical considerations alone. The processes involved in
    their origin are not common today. They appear to be rare, strange, even
    exotic, events. It seems that biotic structures can not *in principle* be
    understood by appealing only to the laws of Physics.

    Does this seem to be a proper distinction to make between these two sets of

    My intuition is based on the gulf dividing between "molecular ensembles" and
    "cells" - does anyone know of anything that would narrow this gap? This is
    very serious issue. I would like to know how big the gap really is.

    Does anyone know if Howard's Dec 2002 article available on line? I checked
    the PSCF archive and they don't have it posted yet.

    Richard Amiel McGough
    Discover the sevenfold symmetric perfection of the Holy Bible at

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Mon Sep 22 2003 - 12:02:46 EDT