Re: [asa] on miracles

From: Don Winterstein <>
Date: Wed Mar 11 2009 - 09:19:24 EDT

David Campbell as a paleontologist is better able to address your questions than I.

However, I believe God's primary goal has to do with large groups (see the apostle Paul's characterizations of the Church as a collective body--e.g., 1 Corinthians 12) and--except for Christ--not with individuals. In order for a large group to act as a single body there must be lots of specialized parts (eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc.) communicating well over considerable distances. For a large body, such good communication would seem to require a certain amount of technology, and developing technology in turn would seem to require a certain minimum of physical and mental capabilities. A big brain, a high level of symbolic manipulation and opposable thumbs come to mind. A conducive environment, such as land and air as opposed to sea, might also be crucial.

In other words, while I agree with David C. that God is far more concerned with spiritual than physical attributes of his creatures--and his predestining may well not have included shapes of individual body parts--it's hard for me to imagine any form of marine life or invertebrate life becoming capable of satisfying God's larger (presumed) requirement. (Well, maybe if dolphins had arms and hands with opposable thumbs.... But how would they smelt ores under water? We can go into water and air and space; marine animals would have great difficulty doing much of anything out of water.)

And while Gould may have exaggerated the randomness of evolution, from what I know of it, and most emphatically in acknowledgement of the effects of mass extinctions, it seems very likely that starting evolution at different times and places would lead to significantly different outcomes. While "changing one electron" should not have a major effect (unless it caused a crucial mutation!), even a minor extinction event should have a noticeable effect. For example, such extinction is likely to give some species a new competitive advantage that in turn may lead it to eliminate still other species.

Many authors have pointed out that more than 99% of all species have gone extinct. Chances seem very good that, under conditions of randomness and without any special guidance, the species God wanted would not have survived.


  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Merv Bitikofer<>
  To: Don Winterstein<> ;<>
  Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 4:31 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] on miracles

  Actually -- I could learn to like the word "tinker" as you use it. (I'm
  envisioning a craftsman lovingly tinkering with his raw materials in his
  workshop.) Just so long as we remove the pejorative connotation from it.

  Regarding your Gould quote; has the 'controversy' --if it ever ranked
  as that-- of evolution possibly having a naturally convergent nature
  given the limiting set of constants and constraints; --has that ever
  been laid to rest? The way Gould referred to it, as you quote below,
  makes it sound wildly divergent like the 'butterfly effect'. Change one
  little electron around in history and the whole thing replays entirely
  differently. Is there now one reigning response from most scientists on
  this one?


  Don Winterstein wrote:
> Good analogy. The reason I believe God "tinkers" [I don't like the
> word either] is not necessarily that he must do so but that it's his
> nature to interact intimately with his creation. That's what he does,
> and that's what he enjoys doing.
> However, it's entirely possible if not likely that he /must /tinker in
> order to get desired results. Evolutionary processes seem not to have
> been controlled by intelligence but rather to have been driven by
> chaotic forces to a degree that the ultimate outcome was totally
> unpredictable. Stephen Jay Gould: "Humans are here today because our
> particular line never fractured - never once at any of the billion
> points that could have erased us from history." I think it extremely
> unlikely that humans would have come into being through the operation
> of natural laws and forces without God's special guidance. "Special
> guidance" here means that God made nature do something it could have
> done without his guidance but was not inclined to do; that is, the
> probability that nature would have yielded the desired
> result without guidance is vanishingly small.
> By "nature" I mean the world as science sees it: Things interacting in
> accord with properties built into them.
> Even if the potential for humans had been built into the DNA of the
> original bacteria, it would by no means be inevitable that humans
> would eventually emerge. If we were to repeat the Earth biotic
> experiment somewhere else or in the same place at a different time,
> the extinction events (along with much else) surely would not repeat
> in the same ways or at the same relative times, and the ultimate
> outcome would therefore differ radically. Creatures with five eyes
> and very long noses might dominate (cf. Opabinia)!
> Don
> ----- Original Message -----
> *From:* Merv Bitikofer <<>>
> *To:* David Clounch <<>> ;
><> <<>>
> *Sent:* Sunday, March 08, 2009 1:01 PM
> *Subject:* Re: [asa] on miracles
> I'm also intrigued by the popular pejorative assumptions usually
> embodied with words like "tinkering" or "intervention".
> What if I take care of my dog, feeding it every day, walking it,
> etc... And now let's give my dog sentience. So he can now
> discuss his
> master with other dogs (who have just finished reading some books on
> freewill and philosophy --maybe including one titled: "Does the
> Master
> Exist?". The other dogs ask him, how do you get fed? Is it
> natural or
> does your master feed you? And my now sentient dog says: "my
> master,
> of course. --I see him do it." And this invokes some guffaws
> from my
> dog's intellectual friends who proceed to retort: "He must not be a
> very bright master if he has to constantly intervene and couldn't
> arrange things so that you just automatically get fed." Then
> Wally
> (our dog) objects and says, "I enjoy it when he feeds me. I have a
> relationship with him and get some attention!"
> Yes, we probably could rig up some contraption to automatically
> care for
> our dog, and even see to it that he never actually sees us in the
> course
> of a day. But the point of this silly and limited analogy is that
> such
> "efficiency" isn't our goal. We enjoy having a dog, and if we didn't
> ever interact with him, then we probably shouldn't be keeping
> pets in
> the first place. Taking seriously the kenotic aspect of how God
> relates to us, I have a whopper of an objection to the notion that
> our
> "watch-maker" God is forced to "intervene" out of necessity. Not
> only
> does God intervene, He's there every step of the way --much more
> than I
> ever could be for my sometimes neglected dog. I think I've heard
> Keith
> & others here propose this attitude, and I'm in full agreement
> with it.
> I asked my science students this week after letting a marker drop
> on the
> floor, "did God make the marker fall? or did gravity do it?" I
> think they fairly quickly grasped the false dichotomy that so many
> mockingly portray.
> --Merv Bitikofer (...need to sign off now & go scratch Wally
> behind
> the ears.)
> David Clounch wrote:
> > Thanks Bill.
> >
> > My personal view is the idea that someone or some thing constantly
> > tinkers along the way is not inconsistent with all this.
> >
> > But that of course is no proof that such a thing happens. And of
> > course this tinkering is the sort of engineering activity that is
> > commonly thought of as being intelligent design, and we all know
> how
> > unpopular that is. The problem is, how does one rule out such a
> > tinkering? How would we know such a tinkering is impossible? How
> > would we know its possible? Until we can answer that I am
> > uncomfortable with anyone telling anybody they must discard their
> > beliefs in favor of some other belief.
> >
> > I am hoping Ken Miller advocates for opening minds rather than
> closing
> > them.
> >
> > Best Regards,
> > David Clounch
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Received on Wed Mar 11 09:20:10 2009

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