Re: Recent rhetoric

Howard J. Van Till (
Mon, 5 Apr 1999 21:20:34 -0400

In no way do I wish to get caught in the crossfire of rhetorical exchanges
between Kevin O'Brien and Bill Payne. (I'm afraid I would be hit by arrows
from both directions.)

Nonetheless, Bill made the following interesting statement in his recent

>I hold that you need (require) an outside force
>to give a vector to otherwise random change.

I would suggest that there are significant exceptions to this claim. Let me
try a simple illustration. Suppose you have a large closed room, no drafts,
just still air at a uniform temperature. The motion of the molecules that
comprise the air in that room is an exquisite dance of random motions -- no
preferred vector could be assigned to the motion of any molecule.

In one corner, spill a bit of perfume. At any point in the room, you will
sooner or later detect the odor of perfume. There is, for a time, a net
motion of perfume molecules away from the spill. You know this process as
'diffusion' -- a case in which the random motion of individual particles
gives rise to a net transport of material (entailing a vector, if you like)
that changes the largescale distribution of particles. The perfume
molecules move to regions not initially occupied by that "species" of

Now, consider a "genomic phase space" in which each point represents some
viable life form. Nearby points would represent similar life forms.
Suppose, further, that there are "creaturely processes" that allow
populations of creatures to move through this genomic phase space. (Each
process is made possible by a creaturely capability that is a 'gift of
being' given by the Creator to the Creation.) Even if these motions were
random on an individual scale, the diffusion of life through a vast space
of possibilities would give rise to the actualization of creatures that had
not appeared before. I believe Stephen J. Gould has made this point in a
number of his writings.

Once again, the question comes down to this, How gifted is the Creation
with capabilities for self-organization and self-transformation? Is the
Creation sufficiently gifted to move through genomic phase space in the
manner envisioned by contemporary biological theory? Or, on the other hand,
have a few key capabilities been withheld so as to make that motion


Howard Van Till