Re: Coercion

From: Howard J. Van Till <>
Date: Mon Apr 26 2004 - 10:15:59 EDT

On 4/24/04 12:47 AM, "Peter Ruest" <> wrote:

> When I proposed the stronger claim that God might sometimes select one
> specific outcome for a quantum event, you agreed that "the
> outcome-choosing divine action that you propose does not involve forcing
> a quantum system to do anything in violation of its nature. Neither does
> it demand capabilities that it was never given (by its Creator)." Now
> that I am proposing a weaker form of this claim, by substituting the
> specific selection with a mere selection probability function, you call
> it "a divinely imposed and transient modification of the creature...
> Still seems a bit coercive". I don't understand this change in your stance.


The change in tone here is simply a product of my continuing thought on your
proposal and how it might contribute to our reflection on some issues of
divine action in the world to which science has empirical access.

It now looks to me that there are two differing ways of making a distinction
between the ³coercive² & ³non-coercive² categories of divine action that are
relevant to much of our recent discussion.

1. Strong sense: Coercive = divine action that forces some creaturely system
to do something contrary to, or beyond, what it could do by the application
of its (God-given) capabilities.
2. Weak sense: Coercive = not coercive in the strong sense, but nonetheless
fully determinative of the outcome of some creaturely action.

For the sake of discussion, would it help to use the ³Coercive/non-coercive²
language for the first (strong) sense and another distinction --
³Determinative/contributive² -- for the second (weak) sense? Here the term
³contributive² would convey the idea of divine action that is neither
overpowering (coercive in the strong sense) nor fully determinative
(coercive in the weak sense), but yet a factor that is able to contribute
(within limits) to a real modification in the outcome of creaturely

As I see it, your original proposal for divine choosing among possible
quantum outcomes is not coercive in the strong sense, but is coercive in the
weaker sense of ³fully determinative.²

What about your modified proposal? Thatıs more difficult to categorize. You
are correct, I believe, to say that the application of a selection
probability function is not coercive in the weak sense (the divine action is
contributive, but not determinative). Nonetheless, one could interpret the
application of a selection probability function as being equivalent to
forcibly imposing a modification in the nature of the system. If so, it
would look like coercion in the strong sense once again.

If, on the other hand, your modified proposal is your way of talking about
divine action that is contributive (or ³persuasive² :) but not
determinative, then your model is consistent with what Iım looking for. So
understood, your modification would be consistent with process theologyıs
idea of divine persuasion that is (within limits) effective, but not
coercive in either the strong (overpowering) or weak (determinative) sense.

Comments welcome.

Received on Mon Apr 26 10:18:42 2004

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