[asa] Divine action and QM--a major ID supporter weighs in--for Timaeus

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Fri Dec 05 2008 - 08:32:01 EST

I tried to send this yesterday, but it did not come through for some
reason.

Those who have followed the exchanges with Timaeus will know that he has
been quite critical of those TEs who think that God might act providentially
and ubiquitously on nature at the level of quantum events. To summarize
briefly, Timaeus has noted (and I agree with him) that IDs have no need to
delve into such things as divine action, as part of ID per se, but that TEs
are obliged to do so, in order to account for how apparently random events
can actually be directed by the creator--how, in other words, evolution can
really be "theistic." I've pointed out to him here and (in the past) over
on UD how at least some TE thinkers have employed QM as a putative way to do
this, and he has asked for the kinds of details about this that might
persuade a philosophically sophisticated person that this could be a
coherent account of things. Overall, one has the impression from Tim's
comments, taken as a whole, that he finds this approach incoherent at best,
or an indefensible capitulation to the cultural authority of "Darwinism" at
worst. I sense that many ID adherents would agree with this conclusion.

Well, I can now point to a detailed philosophical examination of this very
idea by a major philosopher who is highly sympathetic to ID. I mean the
essay, "What Is 'Intervention'," by Alvin Plantinga, in the latest (Nov
2008) issue of "Theology and Science." As the title indicates, Plantinga
delves deeply (as he usually does) into the whole issue of "intervention,"
over which Timaeus and I clashed, and then at the end has lengthy section on
QM versions of divine action. Plantinga can be read as favoring both
Timaeus and me in this exchange. On the one hand, he agrees with Tim that
those theologians who want to avoid the language of divine "intervention,"
but then want to see God active in QM, are not offering a coherent account
of what an "intervention" would look like. (I have some sympathy with this
myself, notwithstanding the reasons I gave why "intervention" has become a
bad word in certain circles.) On the other hand, Plantinga also seems to
have a much more favorable attitude toward QM and divine action than does
Timaeus. I had pointed out myself the parallel between those who (like A H
Compton) saw QM as a possible locus for human free actions and those who
(like Russell and Pollard) do likewise for God. Plantinga also notes this,
adding, that, if so, "our action in the world ... resembles divine action in
the world; this would be still another locus of the Imago Dei. Here we see
a pleasing unity of divine and human free action, as well as a more specific
suggestion as to what mechanism these actions actually involve." (p. 395)

I'm not completely sure what Plantinga's own view on this is, but it seems
from this essay that he is at least somewhat attracted to this view. I
can't think of anyone who knows more about minds and agents than he does,
and given his support for ID this is very significant.

I realize of course that Tim might not want to continue this thread
further, as is his prerogative. I simply wish I'd gotten my issue of
"Theology and Science" several days earlier.

Ted

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Received on Fri Dec 5 08:41:09 2008

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