RE: [asa] on science and meta-science

From: Jon Tandy <>
Date: Fri Nov 06 2009 - 09:30:08 EST



I think this is a helpful thought, as long as it isn't taken too far. It's
not that God no longer "cares" about the physical aspects of the world, nor
that He doesn't "want" to interact with it, nor that He "doesn't" or "can't"
or "won't" interact with it.


The analogy was made to someone driving a car, but not always fiddling with
the engine. Take the engineer who designed the car, or the mechanic who
knows how to take it all apart down to the last bolt and put it back
together. These guys have the skills to fiddle with the design or the build
of the engine and the body. The engineer may fiddle with the design to
create the next generation of sports car, to make it better, faster, more
fuel efficient. And the mechanic may fiddle with the engine to make it run
better, to tune up any squeaks or rattles, or to perform regular maintenance
on it.


Yet, when they get behind the wheel, they aren't doing these things. Why?
It's not because they can't or won't (at times), or don't know how. It's
because when they get behind the wheel, their joy and passion is to use the
sports car for what it was intended to do: drive. To handle corners
precisely at high rates of speed. To feel the rush of the wind, and to hear
the engine humming along, perfectly tuned. To feel the power applied
responsively when they punch the accelerator. That is their passion, and
that is their reason and motivation for all the careful work that came
before, in designing and building the vehicle to precise standards. Their
greatest joy is not in having a perfect design on paper, but in seeing the
design implemented and put to its intended use.


When we look at God, it does seem a little odd to think of Him pushing
around electrons and rocks. We shouldn't rule out the possibility that He
could and does. The concept of Providence as it relates to the traditional
notion of God's omnipresence would seem to suggest that He is truly,
literally, "in" every action of the physical world in some way. But when we
look at the cross, it seems clear what God's passion is. We don't have any
record, as far as I know, of God having to work hard or suffer in bringing
about the physical cosmos; but He clearly suffered, by choice, to redeem the
souls of mankind.


So why would it not be appropriate to picture God in some sense as the
Engineer and Mechanic who created the world, who can and does tinker with
it, tune it up, rework it when appropriate; and yet often He lets the
"machine" run on its own in some sense as a very "handy work" - all for the
benefit of that for which His heart has the greatest passion and joy -
mankind. And that His primary focus of attention is not the machine, but
mankind and the creation of a new spiritual humanity.


Jon Tandy


From: [] On
Behalf Of Jim Armstrong
Sent: Thursday, November 05, 2009 4:51 PM
Subject: Re: [asa] on science and meta-science


Hi, Dave -
Now I'm not a logician, and I'm not particularly well schooled in the
histories or philosophies that so many on this list have on their pallet.
But at my own acknowledged peril, let me push back gently at this a bit,

Perhaps it does fit part of the definition of deistic if God no longer (or
little) interacts with the physical world. But I'm not sure that such a
position thereby precludes God's interest in and interaction with living
beings on another level. It just seems like the universe chugs along so well
according to its built-in (designed-in?) rules that it strongly suggests
that it is no longer of primary interest to the Creator. I know that some
folks feel that that this very situation exists only because God sustains
(or even "dreams" it), but that is pretty clearly a supposition, and no more
than we choose to make of that supposition. So, it could clearly be supposed
otherwise as well, with the physical universe running just fine as designed.

The question that keeps coming up for me is why the Creator would be care to
sustain rocks and stars and atoms, and the complexities that accompany their
interactions. They have been imbued with "properties" that make most/all of
what we observe happen in due course with the passage of (also created)
time. It seems presumptuous and even limiting (though not impossible) to
posit that the only way Creation could proceed in this lawful way is for God
to actively guide and sustain it.

From our position as sentient beings, we have fairly naturally (albeit
self-centeredly) presumed that this was all created as a physical context
for the evolution (or installation) of life, and ultimately man. So isn't
that which is unique in life, including the interactions and evolution in
living, likely to be of more interest, both in terms of the complexity and
one might think, in terms of the ultimate (or penultimate, or...?) design
objective(s)? So why the preoccupation with requiring that the physical be
contingent upon God's sustaining support. While the functioning of Creation
is absolutely wondrous from our perspective, it seems pretty secondary to
that which is manifest in living and sentient things, which have the greater
ability to bend and even creatively exploit the physical creation in ways
that no precursor was capable of. Living things can (in part) store energy,
recover and use stored energy, interact socially, and imagine and create
that which has never been before, in nature or otherwise. More to the point,
we have the capacity to conceptualize the existence of and something of the
possible nature of the Creator. We have the capacity to ponder and seek the
creative purpose in our existence, both in community and individually. We
can even redeem (or in the Jewish sense, repair) in a trajectory toward a
better future and perfecting relationship with the Creator.

We think of our bettering of the way we approach life as having spiritual
roots. We also speculate about a level, or levels, of existence that are
wholly beyond ours. So why would we think that it would be so distasteful,
or even an indicator of God's lack of interest and involvement [deistic, in
the more common sense] if the physical world were to function - now that it
is created - on its own, without some cosmic plate-juggling involvement of
the creator. Even in human terms, the clockmaker [to draw on a familiar
parallel] does not stay with the clock to make sure it continues to run as
designed. Instead, that running without involvement is incorporated by
design. That unaccompanied functioning - with nothing other than certain
episodic involvements - is indeed necessary for the instrument to accomplish
of its higher purpose. Why not consider physical creation as more like a
very intentional and benevolent stage setting drop for the production which
is the true end of the creative effort?

All of this is really to ask why an actively unattended running of the
universe should necessarily imply a deistic understanding of God's activity.
Don't we think the most important things of human life are connected with
the spiritual? Why is there not room to think of that "other" venue of being
as being the focus of the Creator's interest and intent, "relieving" God of
the rather humdrum (one would think) task of tending to the matters of
rocks, stars, and atoms.

I can't help but wonder if the strong inclination to think of the Creator's
continuing sustaining of the physical is not on some level fueled by our
desire that heaven and earth be literally moved in response to prayer. We
want, or even need in some sense, God to be willing to do that in response
to our most compelling prayer. One problem is the chaos that can only be
imagined that would result if even a significant numbers of our (often
contradictory) prayers were answered in physical terms. It seems that such a
situation would significantly degrade our ability to trust in a "lawful"
order and operation of the physical world. Perhaps this last is a bit off
track, but this question favors that simplifying concept of a lesser
(perhaps null) continuing divine involvement in the ways of the physical


JimA (Friend of ASA)


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Received on Fri, 6 Nov 2009 08:30:08 -0600

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