Re: [asa] Random and design

From: Janice Matchett <>
Date: Fri Dec 08 2006 - 08:34:57 EST

At 04:04 AM 12/8/2006, Don Winterstein wrote to Karl:

>You're using "natural law" in a religious sense, whereas my usage
>was in the scientific sense. (This is, after all, a forum for scientists.)
>Some of the "wonders" recorded in the Bible clearly violate what
>scientists call natural law. Such wonders simply can't happen
>naturally according to our current understanding of nature. ...
>Turning Lot's wife into salt... require transmutation of elements
>... we want to talk about something that might be of interest to
>scientists. ~ Don

@ But this is one so-called "wonder" that doesn't violate what
scientists call natural law:

"Gen. 19 is written in a narrative format (though the language of the
pillar of salt, actually, I do not take to be a metamorphosis, but a
case of being covered up like the victims of Vesuvius). .." J. P.

  Lot In Bible versions: NET AVS NIV NRSV NASB

"..From the words of warning in
17:32, "Remember Lot's wife," it would seem as if she had gone back,
or tarried so long behind in the desire to save some of her goods,
that she became involved in the destruction which fell on the city,
and became a stiffened corpse, fixed for a time in the saline
incrustations. She became "a pillar of salt", i.e., as some think, of
asphalt. (See

"..The end of Lot's wife is commonly treated as one of the
difficulties of the Bible; but it surely need not be so. It cannot be
necessary to create the details of the story where none are given. On
these points the record is silent. The value and the significance of
the story to us are contained in the allusion of Christ.
17:32) Later ages have not been satisfied so to leave the matter, but
have insisted on identifying the "pillar" with some one of the
fleeting forms which the perishable rock of the south end of the Dead
Sea is constantly assuming in its process of decomposition and
liquefaction. From the incestuous intercourse between Lot and his two
daughters sprang the nations of Moab and Ammon.

"..The principal thing to observe is the vagueness and the simplicity
of the story in Gen. For it does not necessarily imply the
"metamorphosis" popularly attributed to it, in the strict sense of
that word. And it lacks, even in a narrative like this, where the
temptation would be greatest, all indications of that "popular
archaeology" or curiosity, which according to some critics, is
alleged to have furnished the original motive for the invention of
the patriarchal narratives. "She became a pillar of salt," and
"Remember Lot's wife": this is the extent of the Biblical allusions.
All the rest is comment, or legend, or guess, or "science."

~ Janice

>----- Original Message -----
>From: <>
>To: <>
>Cc: <>
>Sent: Thursday, December 07, 2006 2:06 PM
>Subject: Re: [asa] Random and design
> And just why would we want to define miracle as an act that
> violates natural law? Scripture itself never uses the term. It
> uses "signs" [semeia], "wonders" [terata], "mighty works"
> [dunameis], and "works" [erga]. For most of the history of the
> church, "miracles" were not considered violations. Augustine
> considered miracles not to be "contrary to nature" but rather
> "contrary to our knowledge of nature". And:
>"Isn't the daily course of nature itself a miracle, something to be
>wondered at? Everything is full of marvels and miracles, but they
>are so common that we regard them as cheap and of no account."
>(Perhaps we could paraphrase by saying the ID shouldn't look for
>fingerprints --it's ALL fingerprints?!)
>Historian Peter Harrison points out that it was only at the
>Reformation and beyond, especially with the "voluntarists" that
>miracles were given an independent status as evidence -- and thereby
>opened the door to Hume's critique. [See his "Miracles, early
>modern science, and rational religion" in Church History, 2006, v.
>75, p. 493-510].
>Karl V. Evans
>-----Original Message-----
>Sent: Wed, 6 Dec 2006 4:37 PM
>Subject: Re: [asa] Random and design
>Among the several limitations of science is its inability to monitor
>more than a negligible fraction of what goes on in the world. If we
>define miracle to be an act of God that violates natural law, it is
>not inconsistent with science to believe there may be miracles going
>on all the time. That is, the number of possibilities for miracles
>exceeds Avogadro's number by a large factor, and the number of
>measurements that scientists can do is negligible in
>comparison. This means the chance any scientist would happen to
>measure one of these hypothetical miracles is close to zero. If he
>did happen to measure one, and it gave him a wild result, the usual
>practice would be to throw it out as unexplained bad data.
>Science relies on averages, and a miracle almost by definition would
>lie outside the expected range and hence give unusable data. What
>we can say is that the world is consistent enough to allow science
>to be useful; in other words, the averages practically speaking can
>be counted on to work all the time. Nevertheless, to conclude as
>scientists commonly do that all parts of the world must always
>behave in accord with their averages is unwarranted.
>The point is that miracles could be far more common than scientists
>think. In random conversations I've found many people who sincerely
>believe either they themselves or close acquaintances have witnessed
>miracles. (And none were in the category of the Virgin on a piece
>of toast.) If I can extrapolate these conversations to the rest of
>the world, a large fraction of people must believe they've witnessed
>miracles. Are they all wrong? Probably most are, because miracles
>make life exciting and meaningful, so people are motivated to
>experience them even if they aren't real. But some of the miracles
>may have been real. In most cases science can't say they weren't.
>(Of course, if you carefully investigate, as RCs do at Lourdes, for
>example, you may be able to say they weren't.)

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri Dec 8 08:35:37 2006

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri Dec 08 2006 - 08:35:37 EST