Re: [asa] Contingency and Quantum Indeterminacy

From: David Opderbeck <>
Date: Wed Mar 19 2008 - 14:01:03 EDT

Ok -- so someone says "the universe is not necessarily connected to God." I
respond, maybe or maybe not usefully, "the universe is necessarily connected
to God in the sense that the universe is contingent on God's will" --
wanting to reflect this Torrancian (if that's a term) notion of
"contingency." The other person responds with quantum physics -- nothing in
the universe is "necessary," says he; things "just happen" rather than being
caused to happen; and my thought reflects a discredited Thomistic,
mechanistic view of causation.

So I want to respond: quantum physics is perfectly compatible with
contingency as I've used the term -- in fact it demonstrates that God didn't
have to create *this* universe and that the universe isn't a Newtonian
self-sustaining machine. Further, quantum physics doesn't do away with the
*notion* of "causation"; it just means causation appears to be probabilistic
rather than deterministic. Would this response be fair?

On Wed, Mar 19, 2008 at 1:46 PM, George L. <> wrote:

> I see that the responses to this have focused appropriately on David's
> question about physics but it may be worth noting the theological context.
> Torrance's ideas about the "contingent rationality" of the universe
> motivated the inclusion of the phrase in the ASA statement. The reference
> is to "contingent order and intelligibility," so that the emphasis is more
> on the contingency of the rational patterns that underlie the universe
> rather than with the contingency of individual events, though of course the
> latter is not excluded. God could have created other universes that are
> equally rational but obey rational laws that differ from those of our
> universe. That's why, *anter alia*, we have to observe the world & do
> experiments in addition to theorizing.
> Or to put it another way, the answer to the question that Einstein
> said interested him most - whether God had any choice in creating the
> universe - is "Yes."
> Shalom,
> George
> > > > In the ASA statement of faith, we use the term "contingent order."
> Contingency is important in Torrance's thought as well as Polanyi's.
> Contingency is also part of Aquinas' teleological argument. Does the notion
> of contingency as we use it require a creation ex nihlo, a big bang? How
> does contingency relate to quantum indeterminacy, since states are only
> represented by probability distributions? Are quantum probability
> distributions completely open, or are they bounded by more basic physical
> laws? > -- David W. OpderbeckAssociate Professor of LawSeton Hall University
> Law SchoolGibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology(ASA Member) >
> George L. Murphy

David W. Opderbeck
Associate Professor of Law
Seton Hall University Law School
Gibbons Institute of Law, Science & Technology
To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Wed Mar 19 14:02:12 2008

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Wed Mar 19 2008 - 14:02:12 EDT