Re: [asa] Random and design

From: Merv <>
Date: Mon Dec 04 2006 - 21:00:18 EST

This exchange has provoked me to wonder how much of our proposed
categorizations of various phenomena (i.e. natural and/or divine) is
reducible to mere word play. For example, we define scientific law as
that which has been observed to be true universally as far as we can see
and over time as far back as we ever started measuring it. So it is by
definition that no regular or repeatable "violations" to such a law have
ever been observed. If they had, we would no longer call it a law. If
the divine interventions were physically detectable on a regular basis,
then they would simply be incorporated as a new set of observations
fitting within some new law to be explicated.

Regarding a common perception that miracles don't happen like they used
to in Bible times: There must be a name for the faulty perception of
"crowding" as the observer's distance away increases. Just as a
cluster of telephone poles could look closely packed if you were a mile
away from them and yet appear quite far apart if you were standing among
them, we may be fostering a distorted view of "Biblical times" by
thinking of them as action packed with miracles. The narratives will,
for understandable reasons, dwell on those special times (like history
books tend to jump from war to war). And yet more careful readings
reveal quite the "dry spells" that people endured -- enough that various
Psalms reveal the same kinds of stubborn doubts about God's presence (or
seeming lack of) that is supposedly the skeptical domain of recent
centuries. For all we know, a book compiled about our present
centuries might convey to a (several millenniums future if anybody is
still around) readership a that our present period is full of
extravagant divine activity. -- most of which may be invisible to us
right now because of its localized sense, that will only be recognized
as significant by future eyes who see wider contexts than we now can.
Likewise, "details" which seem significant to us right now may fade into
unseeable insignificance to these possible future readers. In fact,
we may appear to them to have been on the tails of New Testament & Old
Testament activity, practically merging with them from their temporally
distant perspective. Of course, if you were lucky enough to be alive
to walk with Jesus, or cross the Red sea with Moses, then you get may
get an eyeful. But those are tiny spots on the time line. And even
their lives were lived over many years instead of over many chapters
that can be read in a few days.

Things (including our "empty spaces") loom large to us when we're living
in the middle of them. I guess that pretty well summarizes my ramble


Don Winterstein wrote:
> 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 <>
> *To:* <>
> *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

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Mon Dec 4 20:58:35 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Dec 04 2006 - 20:58:35 EST