Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?

From: George Murphy <>
Date: Sun May 17 2009 - 17:18:48 EDT

OK, let me be more explicit.

In traditional language, God cooperates with creatures, First Cause with second causes, analogically, worker with tool. That is true of everything that happens in the world, not just biological evolution, & in that sense God is "omnipotent." In that cooperation God acts (at least in the vast majority of cases) in accord with the natural capacities of creatures - which is to say, in accord with the basic mathematical pattern of the world. (That pattern, itself God's creation, is what we approximate by our laws of physics.) I.e., God acts kenotically.

Chaos & quantum theories say that there is some looseness in the connection between events, so that even within the constraint of kenosis God is not locked into a single course of action. God therefore has some fredom to act in ways that will bring about desired outcomes in such situations and in fact does make use of that freedom to bring about particular results - e.g., to answer prayer or to direct the course of a particular branch of evolutionary history. It is not possible scientifically to discern divine action in these cases because the outcome that is observed is just as consistent with the laws of physics as some other outcomes. If the weather person says there's only a 10% chance of rain & it rains that day because God answered someone's prayer for rain, the person of faith may say "God answered prayer" & the atheist may say "You got lucky." God does not "violate the laws of physics."

So yes, I think that God does act to direct evolution in particular ways.

More precise that that I am not going to be at this point because I think there are some technical difficulties, both scientific and theological. I already referred in another post to ambiguities about the idea that God acts as "the determiner of indeterminancies." In addition, the connection between quantum theory & chaos remains obscure. & it's not clear how much special guidance evolution needs to produce humanity. (But reiterating just to be clear - God is active throughout evolution even if no special guidance is needed - e.g., if the eventual appearance of intelligent bipeds were somehow inherent in the process.)

If IDers want to shake my hand for saying that, great. But I know that some - & some of the more vocal - won't.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Cameron Wybrow" <>
To: "asa" <>
Sent: Sunday, May 17, 2009 8:26 AM
Subject: Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?

> 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" <>
> Cc: "asa" <>
> 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 17:19:39 2009

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