Re: Hodge on design

From: Douglas Barber <>
Date: Mon Apr 05 2004 - 11:05:56 EDT

I assume that no theist believes the proposition "If an outcome is
determined by a natural law, God's purpose may not be considered in
interpreting its significance," yet some (perhaps Hodge?) seem to
believe this one: "If an outcome is fully explained by a natural law, no
room is left for explanation by reference to God's intentions." The
asserted incompatability of natural scientific and theological
explanation is sharpened if "explanation by reference to God's
intentions" is defined to mean "explanation by reference to the
supernatural," and "natural" and "supernatural" explanations are defined
as being mutually exlusive. On the other hand, the incompatibility seems
less clear if natural laws are explicitly included in the set "God's
intentions". "Supernatural" can be understood to mean "not only natural".

To my mind, an analogy to the relation of speech and language is
instructive. Language is made possible by rules enable speakers to
express of meanings, but do not *determine* those meanings. I can
explain the rules of definition, grammar, and syntax which a speaker
used in the course of formulating a statement, and not in so doing
foreclose the possibility of also explaining, in an entirely different
fashion, what the speaker meant by what he said. This analogy seems
particularly apt in the case of natural laws which permit divergent
outcomes even given a full statement of both the laws and all pertinent
(natural) initial conditions.

Mechanistic determinism, which holds that, given a complete statement of
the initial conditions in the universe, every aspect of every subsequent
state of affairs could be predicted by one who knew all the pertinent
natural laws, is certainly imcompatible with any theology other than
deism. However, a committment to scientific explanation of natural
phenomena does not entail a committment to mechanistic determinism, and
may even rule the latter out (for instance, by discerning the
probabilistic character of physical processes like radioactive decay).

Far from seeing a committment to explanation of natural phenomena by
subsuming particular cases under universal laws as putting Providence
aside, I would rather think that to the discerning eye it places it at
the heart of creation, by tacitly presupping some supernatural guarantee
that the universal laws which applied between 1991 and 2003 will
continue to apply in 2005. I'm not aware of any scientific explanation
why this should be the case.

Doug Barber
Received on Mon Apr 5 11:06:20 2004

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