Re: [asa] Divine action and QM--a major ID supporter weighs in--forTimaeus

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Fri Dec 05 2008 - 09:07:28 EST

If I may, I'd like to focus for a moment on Timaeus' (& apparently Plantinga's - I haven't gotten the recent T & S yet) claim that appeals to divine action at the quantum level are incoherent. I addressed this in my last last reply to Timaeus. If what is meant is that such appeals do not explain how God acts at the quantum level then I have to agree - but immediately add that they're not trying to & shouldn't try to! As I noted in my reply, Russell explicitly says (p.342 of Perspectives on an Evolving Creation) that he is not trying to explain how God acts at the quantum level but simply suggesting that God does act at that level.

I think that the mistake that is being made here - a fairly common one in discussions of divine action - is engaging in too detailed a "search for the causal joint" as it's been called. Timaeus made this same mistake in criticizing my discussion of God's "cooperation" with creatures. The mistake involves, I think, a tacit idea that we can have a description of God's interaction with the world like the one we have of two systems within the world. In physics, e.g., we know the Hamiltonian (energy function) for an electromagnetic field, He, and a Hamiltonian for charged particles, Hp, and then look for an "interaction Hamiltonian" Hi so that the total Hamiltonian for the system is He + Hp + Hi. Then we use this to find how the field influences the particles and vice versa. But just describing the procedure in this way should indicate how inappropriate it is to speak of the interaction between God and creatures in that way - to look for the "God-world interaction Hamiltonian."

All any theory of divine action will give us is analogies for the way God acts in the world - see, e.g., Barbour's discussion in Religion and Science. The idea that God "cooperates" with creatures is analogous to the way a human worker uses a tool. God's influence of quantum events might be seen as analogous to the way observers influence the system they observe. But those are analogies, with all the limitations of analogies. To demand more is wrong because God isn't just one more entity in the world that interacts with other entities. Perhaps the lack of such a detailed explanation isn't what's meant by saying that appeals to interaction at the quantum level are incoherent but if that is what's meant, it's wrong. & if it isn't what's meant, the critics need to be more explicit.

Shalom
George
http://home.neo.rr.com/scitheologyglm

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ted Davis" <TDavis@messiah.edu>
To: <asa@lists.calvin.edu>
Sent: Friday, December 05, 2008 8:32 AM
Subject: [asa] Divine action and QM--a major ID supporter weighs in--forTimaeus

>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
>
> To unsubscribe, send a message to majordomo@calvin.edu with
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Received on Fri Dec 5 09:08:10 2008

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