Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?

From: Cameron Wybrow <wybrowc@sympatico.ca>
Date: Sun May 17 2009 - 08:26:58 EDT

Dave:

Thanks for your comments. Three quick points:

1. Yes, George has said "God is active throughout the evolutionary process,
acting with the chemical, environmental &c interactions that are involved."
The philosopher in me wants to know what "acting with" means. Does it mean,
for example, that everything we see in evolution is the resultant, so to
speak, of two different vectors -- the vector of chemical etc. interactions
PLUS the vector of God's activity? That sounds as if God is steadily
guiding nature in chosen directions, which would be completely amenable to
my viewpoint regarding evolution. But it is not clear that this is what
George means, because he ALSO says: "Moreover, God limits divine action to
what can be accomplished *through those processes*" [emphasis added]. Does
"those processes" refer to what I have just called the resultant, i.e., the
chemical etc. interactions PLUS the activity of God, or just to the chemical
etc. interactions as they would be WITHOUT the activity of God? George's
syntax alone does not make this clear. On this point, George has in past
posts (which I've read in the archives) spoken of the requirement in science
to "attribute nothing to the gods", and has used the phrase "as if God were
not given", which could suggest that for scientists the chemical
interactions etc. should be regarded as quite capable of explaining
evolutionary activity even if no divine activity were involved -- a
proposition I would wholeheartedly dispute (and which I think some other TEs
here might well dispute).

2. George also writes: "Even with that limitation, the freedom that is
inherent in natural processes because of quantum & chaos theories provides
scope for God's "special providence" and divine governance." What does
"provides scope for" mean? Does it mean that George believes (as Ted Davis
and Russell apparently believe) that God *does in fact* guide the
evolutionary process through acts of will which are concealed by the fact of
quantum indeterminacy? (If he believes that, and will say so directly, many
ID people might well get up and walk across the room to shake his hand.) Or
does it mean only that quantum indeterminacy *allows for* such governance,
but that George has no inclination one way or the other whether God in fact
exercises such governance in the case of the evolutionary process? In
short, it is not clear to me *what* George conceives God to be doing (other
than sustaining the laws of nature) in the everyday microevolutionary
process, let alone whether he conceives of God as doing anything (beyond
sustaining the laws of nature) in, say, the origin of life, or the Cambrian
explosion, or the emergence of man. His language is very scholarly and very
careful, yet also very unclear, because it leaves so many options open that
it does not clearly assert anything. When one compares it with the language
of Darwin, or of Dawkins, or of Behe, all of whom clearly assert something
about nature, it appears very difficult to assess. Whether this lack of
direct assertion about how evolution works is inherent in the very nature of
TE, I cannot say, but I have found analogous theoretical unclarity in other
TE writers, e.g., Ken Miller. And, given that one of the main criticisms
that TE people make about ID is that it does not offer a "satisfactory
theory of divine action", lack of clarity on this question (what exactly God
*does* in evolution) does not exactly put TE in a strong position to
criticize.

3. Finally, I always find it frustrating when people in a discussion group
refer to their books for an explanation of their views. If it were a case
of providing more examples or detailed references, I could understand this,
but I don't see why someone should have to go chasing after a book to get
the essential argument, including the essential definitions used. For one
thing, some of us here have neither salaries nor professionals' pensions,
and cannot just go out and purchase books that are forty or fifty dollars
apiece, just to get clarification regarding a point in an e-mail discussion.
If I did that every time someone on the internet recommended a book to me to
supplement an incomplete or unclear argument, I would be spending thousands
a year on books. Second, some of us don't live in university towns and
don't have easy access to university libraries, and the sort of book that
gets recommended here is not the sort that are generally found in a local,
small-town library. I therefore greatly prefer it when people define their
terms precisely afresh and make their argument (in skeletal terms) afresh.
Once this is done, I don't object to book references, for those with the
wealth and the time to pursue a subject in greater detail.

Cameron.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Dave Wallace" <wmdavid.wallace@gmail.com>
Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Sunday, May 17, 2009 1:34 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?

> Cameron wrote:
>> ... [I would include you in this group, because you have sometimes said
>> similar things, though I am unsure, because you keep talking about God
>> acting wholly "within the capacities of creatures" in a way that suggests
>> to me that quantum intervention of that sort shouldn't be necessary for
>> evolution to take place.] ...
> From a note on the list, preserved in my personal data base:
>> apropos your question below, it depends of course on just what you mean
>> by "providence" and "TE." My own approach is set out in my book The
>> Trademark of God, especially chapters 6 and 8. To use traditional
>> language, the overall process of evolution can be understood in terms of
>> God's cooperation with natural processes. I.e., God is active throughout
>> the evolutionary process, acting with the chemical, environmental &c
>> interactions that are involved. Moreover, God limits divine action to
>> what can be accomplished through those processes. Even with that
>> limitation, the freedom that is inherent in natural processes because of
>> quantum & chaos theories provides scope for God's "special providence"
>> and divine governance.
>>
>> Shalom
>> George
>
> I don't ever recall George taking any other position in our discussions on
> this list.
>
> I thought I had sent this earlier but I can't find it in either my sent
> folder or on the archive.
>
> Dave W
>
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Received on Sun May 17 08:27:30 2009

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