Re: [asa] Musing on entropy, chaos, and omniscience

From: Merv Bitikofer <>
Date: Sat May 23 2009 - 22:17:41 EDT

Your point, Randy about the "indistinguishableness" of one water
molecule from another is well-taken. I more easily imagine it Terry's
way, though. Thinking that the molecules would need to be 'tagged'
would be an overlay of our human methods of accounting. An omniscient
God could simply 'follow' each molecule, tracking its life-history; much
like we could track an otherwise indistinguishable housefly from several
other mingling houseflies by simply not taking our eyes off it. (Okay
-- even that would be difficult, but I hope the point is adequate.) For
a God who sees every sparrow and numbers my every hair (the latter
wouldn't be that big a challenge), we get the idea that no quark is too


Terry M. Gray wrote:
> Randy,
> I'm not sure a name tag is necessary, but I would say that there is a
> historical individuality that can be (and would be) tracked or even
> has been predetermined by God. After all, He knows all the stars by
> name and no sparrow falls without his permission and He numbers every
> hair on our heads. It seems not too outrageous to extend those
> Biblical descriptions to water molecules, protons, or quarks.
> I think we need to be extremely cautious about thinking that God's
> knowledge is like our knowledge. Just because we can't tell the
> difference, even in principle, doesn't mean that He can't. There are
> some points of contact between His knowledge and our knowledge, hence
> our being in his image, but omniscience is one of those incommunicable
> attributes of God and, in my opinion, one of the fundamental
> Creator/creature differences.
> This discussion actually highlights what I think is a serious problem
> with current faith-science discussions, i.e. the tendency to limit God
> to designing the way we design in the case of ID or to limit God to
> interacting with the world in ways describable by our scientific
> understanding, e.g. finding God's action in the realm of quantum
> indeterminacy. Who says that God interacts in any such way that we can
> possibly comprehend? I'm not sure the Bible gives us much of a clue,
> it just says that he does it. To try to figure it out with any more
> precision is to move into speculation and natural theology. Charles
> Hodge once said:
> "The fact of this universal providence of God is all the Bible
> teaches. It nowhere attempts to inform us how it is that God governs
> all things, or how his effectual control is to be reconciled with the
> efficiency of second causes. All the attempts of philosophers and
> theologians to explain that point, may be pronounced failures, and
> worse than failures, for they not only raise more difficulties than
> they solve, but in almost all instances they include principles or
> lead to conclusions inconsistent with the plain teachings of the word
> of God."
> and
> "All we know, and all we need to know is (1.) That God does govern all
> his creatures; and (2.) That his control over them is consistent with
> their nature, and with his own infinite purity and excellence."
> TG
> On May 23, 2009, at 1:40 PM, Randy Isaac wrote:
>> From quantum mechanics, the particles are indistinguishable with no
>> identifiable features.
>> You must be suggesting that God adds a name tag to each one? We just
>> can't see it?
>> If there truly is no difference then why would it violate omniscience
>> to not know something when such knowledge is nonexistent?
>> Randy
>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Terry M. Gray"
>> <>
>> To: "ASA" <>
>> Sent: Saturday, May 23, 2009 3:26 PM
>> Subject: Re: [asa] Musing on entropy, chaos, and omniscience
>>> Randy,
>>> I've been hoping to jump into this conversation and this seems like
>>> an easy one to begin with.
>>> I would give a resounding "yes" to all of your questions and this
>>> is key to my own views of how God works in the world. It seems
>>> self- evidence to me. If he can't then he's not omniscient.
>>> Would this be a controversial notion?
>>> TG
>>> On May 23, 2009, at 1:17 PM, Randy Isaac wrote:
>>>> Are you implying that God's omniscience means he can distinguish
>>>> between (i.e. identify) two water molecules? Or two protons? Or
>>>> two quarks?
>>>> Randy
>>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Merv Bitikofer"
>>>> <
>>>> >
>>>> To: "asa" <>
>>>> Sent: Friday, May 22, 2009 9:07 PM
>>>> Subject: [asa] Musing on entropy, chaos, and omniscience
>>>>> If any of you have time for some light mental meandering, read
>>>>> this and tell me if I'm off my rocker. (Bernie, if you don't
>>>>> count this intro, three paragraphs will get you almost all of the
>>>>> way through this! ---long paragraphs are the key strategy for you!)
>>>>> Many of us will be familiar with the same types of stories and
>>>>> examples that teachers used to describe the concept of entropy:
>>>>> the shattered vase ---that can only appear to fly back together
>>>>> again if you play a movie backwards; or the messy bedroom that
>>>>> only gets elevated to a neater (or lower entropy) state by the
>>>>> input of work. And we’re told that this is one of those one-way
>>>>> temporal arrows of physics that, unlike momentum and collision
>>>>> scenarios ---this one won’t go backwards.
>>>>> Yet it is fun to attempt this little thought ‘experiment’ to see
>>>>> where it might lead. Take an ordinary collection of molecules ---
>>>>> say, the water in your drinking glass. And now in your mind, run
>>>>> the clock backward --not just moments, but hours and days. And we
>>>>> ‘see’ these molecules rushing back up the same pipe up into the
>>>>> same city water tower, and from there we witness what must look
>>>>> like ordinary diffusion. Various molecules bump into others,
>>>>> becoming more and more widely dispersed as they move farther back
>>>>> away from their joint trip down the pipe to join their buddies in
>>>>> your water glass. And as we follow their history back further
>>>>> down along the aquifers from which they were pumped, we might
>>>>> observe some that had been trapped underground for years, and
>>>>> others were relatively recent comers from a global whirlwind tour
>>>>> before they were rained into some river and seeped down to their
>>>>> appointment with your city well. We may wonder if some found one
>>>>> or two of their present buddies early on and managed to stay
>>>>> together all the way to your glass, but chaos theory makes this
>>>>> seem a virtual impossibility (short of temporary
>>>>> micro-crystallization) – but we’ll assume a chaotic liquid state
>>>>> here. So our historical molecules are bumping elbows with current
>>>>> companions that they will never see again –in your future drink
>>>>> or otherwise. I don’t imagine we would have to go too far back
>>>>> before your present glass of water is completely ‘atomized’ into
>>>>> individual molecules and quite widely, even globally dispersed.
>>>>> Now –with the omniscience of God Himself, we look in on all these
>>>>> molecules in their historical locations and we KNOW that they
>>>>> will ALL be keeping a future appointment in your drinking glass
>>>>> in the evening of May 22, 2009. This time, though, let’s watch
>>>>> the clock go forward. And as it plays we see something like the
>>>>> un-shattering vase flying together –and in ordinary forward time,
>>>>> no less! To the less omniscient inhabitants of our drama, it is
>>>>> totally unremarkable, indeed invisible. But to us, it looks like
>>>>> diffusion in perfect reverse. These not-so-omniscient, but
>>>>> otherwise savvy inhabitants would be quite amazed if we
>>>>> identified the disjoint pieces for them ahead of time and then
>>>>> let them observe as they came together, because they know the
>>>>> infinitesimal probability of such a thing happening. But for us,
>>>>> the probability of occurrence is 1 since we’ve seen its future
>>>>> state. (Of course our mere act of informing them & any
>>>>> interactions at all will have to have been part of the original
>>>>> history of your present thirst episode since the slightest
>>>>> modification throws everything off with chaotic amplification.)
>>>>> It must look all quite amazing from a “God’s eye” perspective.
>>>>> And contrary to our unidirectional arrow –there would seem to be a
>>>>> striking symmetry about these events; i.e. any temporary
>>>>> collection of molecules whether in a cloud, a drinking glass, or
>>>>> the molecule collective called ‘you.’ For after your ingestion of
>>>>> it, our drinking glass bunch all eventually go their separate
>>>>> ways again, never to be re-united. As they came, so they went. So
>>>>> the ‘asymmetry’ of such events may be in part only an asymmetry
>>>>> based on ignorance or due to a lack of prior specification.
>>>>> Tangentially, (speaking of the butterfly effect) it is rather
>>>>> sobering & simultaneously useless for us to ponder whether or not
>>>>> to suppress that next sneeze or just let’er rip – the outcome of
>>>>> this choice will, by next year, make a difference on the level of
>>>>> where a hurricane hits the U.S. coast, or whether it even forms
>>>>> at all.
>>>>> And now; who still wonders where the potential points of Divine
>>>>> influence can enter the causal chains in our reality? A more apt
>>>>> question might be: where aren’t they?
>>>>> --Merv Bitikofer
>>> ________________
>>> Terry M. Gray, Ph.D.
>>> Computer Support Scientist
>>> Chemistry Department
>>> Colorado State University
>>> Fort Collins, CO 80523
>>> (o) 970-491-7003 (f) 970-491-1801

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Received on Sat May 23 22:18:05 2009

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