RE: [asa] Re: chance (formerrly BioLogos - Bad Theology?)

From: Alexanian, Moorad <>
Date: Fri May 29 2009 - 15:38:20 EDT

One qualm I have always had of the characterization “random mutation and natural selection” for evolutionary theory is that it does not specify the system on which it works. Does this apply to a purely physical system that in turn would lead to the temporal development of life? Or, is the existence of life in the system presupposed?

From: [] On Behalf Of Schwarzwald []
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2009 10:15 PM
Subject: [asa] Re: chance (formerrly BioLogos - Bad Theology?)

Let me hone in on this my question a little more.

Evolutionary theory is often oversimplified to this: Random mutation and natural selection.

So my question would be: What does the modifier of 'random' add to the theory that 'mutation' alone does not cover? What does the modifier of 'natural' add that 'selection' alone does not convey? Particularly, what do these words add to the science in question?

Mind you, I've heard of various explanations of these things in the past - perhaps some will come up here, and I can respond to them. But this is a pretty fundamental question for me on this topic, and one I (again, as a layman) haven't been satisfied with the answers I've received.

On Thu, May 28, 2009 at 8:10 PM, Schwarzwald <<>> wrote:
Heya Don,

Thank you. But let me be more specific: I have no problem imagining a Designer who allows some chance to be at work in the universe, either apparent (as in, we the created cannot figure out the reasons/'pattern') or real (Open theism and the like, where God has tremendous yet still limited knowledge). That I can get my head around, but my question isn't directly related to theology.

But I mean, scientifically speaking, how does one determine an event - any given event - was well and truly chance in the sense it was unforeseen, unplanned, and unguided by anyone, God included? To me it seems like the only kind of "chance" science can legitimately refer to is the sort that reflects imperfect knowledge on our part.

On Thu, May 28, 2009 at 7:34 PM, Don Nield <<>> wrote:
Yes, it is a potentially foggy area. For some clarification I recommend the book "God, Chance and Purpose: Can God Have It Both Ways?) by David J. Bartholomew (Cambridge U.P., 2008). The product description reads:
"Scientific accounts of existence give chance a central role. At the smallest level, quantum theory involves uncertainty and evolution is driven by chance and necessity. These ideas do not fit easily with theology in which chance has been seen as the enemy of purpose. One option is to argue, as proponents of Intelligent Design do, that chance is not real and can be replaced by the work of a Designer. Others adhere to a deterministic theology in which God is in total control. Neither of these views, it is argued, does justice to the complexity of nature or the greatness of God. The thesis of this book is that chance is neither unreal nor non-existent but an integral part of God's creation. This view is expounded, illustrated and defended by drawing on the resources of probability theory and numerous examples from the natural and social worlds. "
Don N.

Schwarzwald wrote:
One question I have about this entire debate...

Is ascribing something to "chance" really a scientific statement, no matter how thoroughly we know the conditions? I would understand if "chance" were just a statement about the limitations of our knowledge. But are "biological item X was created by chance" or "chance events resulted in biological item X" scientific statements at all, at least in the opinion of most here?

From my layman vantage point, this seems like a foggy area to say the least. I could say more, but I'd like to keep this simple, if anyone is willing to respond.

To unsubscribe, send a message to with
"unsubscribe asa" (no quotes) as the body of the message.
Received on Fri, 29 May 2009 15:38:20 -0400

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Fri May 29 2009 - 15:40:40 EDT