Re: [asa] Random and design

From: Don Winterstein <dfwinterstein@msn.com>
Date: Mon Dec 04 2006 - 11:26:45 EST

Randy,

Apparently no one responded to this; but the questions you raise concern me from time to time, so I'll make a quick response to your point 3.

God could influence how the world evolves by manipulating events in the many cases where many possible outcomes are allowed by QM. The appeal of this kind of manipulation is that it would give God a chance to shape development without violating any known law of science. Apart from scriptural accounts we have no widely accepted indication that scientific laws have ever been violated.

Would such divine manipulation ever show up in scientific data? I say no for two reasons: First, scientists have measured a negligibly small number of such QM outcomes, and none at all before the 20th century. Manipulated events could be happening all the time all over the place, but chances are slim that scientists would have measured any of them. Second--and more important--no manipulated event could be identified as manipulated. That is, as long as the outcome fit within its probability distribution, it would violate no law and hence no one could say whether it had been manipulated or not. Probability distributions for many kinds of QM events allow for infinitudes of possibilities; a scientist could never say one of those possibilities had been manipulated while another had not; yet God with foreknowledge could make small decisions that could presumably add up to big consequences.

Scriptures clearly indicate that God has manipulated events in ways that violate laws of science (e.g., Christ's resurrection; changing water into wine). I believe that God can and does violate laws of science, and card-carrying Christians must acknowledge as much. How often God does so, or whether some of the reported biblical miracles may not have happened as described, is unknown. Those who believe in the power of prayer commonly think God intervenes a lot--as I do, also.

It's easy to see miracles where none occurred, so it's important to interpret with discipline. (But some people are so "disciplined" they wouldn't acknowledge a miracle staring them in the face.)

Don

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Randy Isaac<mailto:randyisaac@adelphia.net>
  To: asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>
  Sent: Sunday, November 26, 2006 5:22 PM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Random and design

  Sorry for the lapse in responding. I was away for a few days for the ASA council meeting and then the holidays were upon us.
  Yes, I wasn't clear enough in my comments. I was trying to make several points and got them a bit confused. Let me try again.
  Meanwhile, this thread seems to have gone in a very different direction.

  1) I didn't mean to downplay the hermeneutical challenges. They are indeed significant, I just felt others were even greater. But if you consider "Adam's rib" in the broader sense of the definition of human beings and the Fall, I certainly agree that TE has a major challenge. But other perspectives haven't solved it all either.

  2) Yes, I believe God guides and directs every phenomenon whether or not it is determined to be "random" scientifically. He works his purposes through every action whether or not we can describe it mathematically or describe the immediate cause. I'm therefore bothered by the attempt to limit God's guidance, or our understanding of it, to the realm of random probabilities. Perhaps I've misunderstood Ken Miller or Bob Russell but they seem to confine God's providential action to the cloak of quantum probabilities. My concern is, what does it really mean to say that God guides nature through random quantum probabilities? Russell admits, in his chapter in "Perspectives on an Evolving Creation," that it is only in an "irreversible interaction" when the wave function collapses to a particular value. And that's where he seems to see God's opportunity to guide nature. Is nature really set up to evolve on the basis of a long series of intricately designed "Schrodinger's cat-like" arrangements whereby a unique quantum event determines a macroscopic state of life or death? I'm not convinced but maybe it is.

  3) Back to the original point that started all this. What I was trying to say is that if God's guidance were carried out by influencing such quantum probabilities, it seems that we should, at least in principle, be able to detect a deviation from the predicted distribution function. Then an absence of such deviation would indicate a lack of such guidance. Personally, I think it's not right to see God's guidance only in the quantum probability functions. All natural phenomena are at his command and he carries out his will in any way he chooses.

  4) But that leaves us back in a mechanistic type of world where, as far as we can determine, nature proceeds through time on a trajectory that we can, in principle, articulate as a solution to Schrodinger's equation. It's not surprising that many people see this as tantamount to Deism. Many, if not most, people believe God's role is a bit different--at least when it comes to answering their prayers.

  Randy

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Received on Mon Dec 4 11:27:24 2006

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