Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?

From: George Murphy <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>
Date: Sun May 17 2009 - 19:56:26 EDT

Schwarzwald -

Moorad beat me to a major part of the answer, which is that we have to
distinguish between the true mathematical pattern of creation, to which our
laws of physics approximate, & those laws themselves. We might find
phenomena that violate our present laws of physics - e.g., conservation of
energy. If a scattering event at CERN started out with a total energy,
including all forms we know of, of 1 GeV & ended with 2GeV then it would
seem that the law of energy conservation had been violated. But physicists
would immediately start looking for some other form of energy that made up
the balance. That's happened repeatedly in history. E.g., it took ~ 30
years from the observation of apparent violations of conservation laws in
beta decay before the neutrino was discovered - though it was proposed a lot
earlier.

If scientists kept looking for where the extra energy went (or missing
energy came from) & didn't find it then we might have to conclude that our
energy conservation law was only an approximation. OTOH if there were an
anomaly in only one experiment & no error could be found, it might be
plausible to say that energy conservation held on all occasions - except
that one. In a sense that event would have been a miracle.

Now in speaking of the "true mathematical pattern of creation" I'm of course
meaning that there is such a thing - & I'm enough of a Platonist to do just
that. & when I speak of God "violating" the laws of nature I mean doing
something that that pattern doesn't allow. As we've discussed here,
Goedel's theorem seems to suggest that such a pattern couldn't explain all
events - that there are some questions which are "undecideable.". Whether
or not we would want to call events that couldn't be explained "violations"
is debateable though.

To be clear, when I said that God doesn't "violate the laws of physics" - in
the sense explained here - I meant that they aren't violated in the type of
things I discussed there - i.e., God making a choice among several things
that quantum &/or chaos theory would allow. I didn't mean that God could
never violate the basic math pattern of the world.

The examples you spoke of - water freezing on a stove or a baseball going
through a wall - would be events allowed by, respectively, classical
statistical mechanics or quantum theory, but of very low probability. We
observe such events on much smaller scales - e.g., an alphaparticle
tunneling out of a U-235 nucleus. Even there the probability is very low.
An alpha oscillates collides with the potential barrier that confines it
about 10^21 times a second & it takes on the average about 10^17 sec for it
too escape, so the transmission probability per collision is about 10^(-38).

Shalom
George
http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alexanian, Moorad" <alexanian@uncw.edu>
To: "Schwarzwald" <schwarzwald@gmail.com>; <asa@calvin.edu>
Sent: Sunday, May 17, 2009 7:19 PM
Subject: RE: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?

> One must be clear what one means by “the laws of physics.” If what one
> means are our mental constructs of the workings of Nature, I ask you how
> can Got violate our mental constructs. God upholds the creation, that
> which is truly real, and as such is not bound by our models of Nature. It
> is very difficult for humans to know truly how God interacts with His
> creation.
> Moorad
> ________________________________
> From: asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu [asa-owner@lists.calvin.edu] On Behalf Of
> Schwarzwald [schwarzwald@gmail.com]
> Sent: Sunday, May 17, 2009 5:51 PM
> To: asa@calvin.edu
> Subject: Re: [asa] an Archimedean point in theology?
>
> Heya George,
>
> I'm enjoying reading this exchange between you and Cameron. One question
> jumps out to me, however, and I think it's important.
>
> You say "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.""
>
> My question is this: How does one "violate the laws of physics"? I ask
> that question seriously. For instance I remember Roger Penrose giving the
> explanation for just how unlikely he believes fine tuning to be and using
> illustrations about horses spontaneously forming and 'popping into
> existence'. I've seen other explanations of quantum concepts with
> illustrations about how it's possible to put a pot of water on a stove and
> the contents freeze, or throwing a baseball at a solid brick wall and it
> ends up on the other side of the wall. And then there's the idea of
> Boltzmann brains, self-aware entities that are assembled due to quantum
> fluctuations, etc.
>
> My understanding - someone, please correct me if I'm wrong - is that none
> of these examples 'violate the laws of physics'. Thanks to our knowledge
> of the quantum world, they are all "physically possible" - they simply are
> tremendously, unbelievably unlikely. Keep in mind that one unspoken
> assumption at work in their being unlikely is that there is no agent
> around who can bring them about. What's more, this problem is compounded
> by our not having access to a complete physical theory - so there are
> holes in our understanding of what does or does not "violate the laws of
> physics".
>
> Again, maybe I'm missing something here. But it seems like a restriction
> where God is A) Active in the world, yet B) Works with and does not
> violate the laws of physics amounts to a God with next to no restrictions.
> I'm not complaining about that, mind you. I'm just trying to unpack the
> statement to see what limits, if any, you see God as having.
>
> On Sun, May 17, 2009 at 5:18 PM, George Murphy
> <GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com<mailto:GMURPHY10@neo.rr.com>> wrote:
> 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.
>
> Shalom
> George
> http://home.roadrunner.com/~scitheologyglm<http://home.roadrunner.com/%7Escitheologyglm>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Cameron Wybrow" <wybrowc@sympatico.ca<mailto:wybrowc@sympatico.ca>>
> To: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu<mailto:asa@calvin.edu>>
> 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"
>> <wmdavid.wallace@gmail.com<mailto:wmdavid.wallace@gmail.com>>
>> Cc: "asa" <asa@calvin.edu<mailto: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
>>>
>>> To unsubscribe, send a message to
>>> majordomo@calvin.edu<mailto:majordomo@calvin.edu> with
>>> "unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
>>>
>>
>>
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>
>
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Received on Sun May 17 19:57:10 2009

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