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Sigh. Some theologians are still trying to save Darwinisms’ soul ….

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Evolution News and Views

Why?

In “What’s in a Word? “Randomness” in Darwinism and the Scientific Theory of Evolution” (Evolution News & Views, April 2, 2012) Jay W. Richards replies to Alvin Plantinga, in a linked discussion. Plantinga argues that Darwinism is compatible with purpose and design in the universe.

Darwinism is no more compatible with purpose and design than Marxism is compatible with civil rights and personal property. And in fairness, the top people promoting these ideas have never entertained the idea that they were. It’s their apologists who claim such things. Richards notes,

Plantinga says that “if we think of the Darwinian picture as including the idea that the process of evolution is unguided, then of course that picture is completely at odds with providentialist religion [which holds that everything that happens is intended or permitted by God]. As we’ve seen, however, current evolutionary science doesn’t include the thought that evolution is unguided; it quite properly refrains from commenting on the metaphysical or theological issue” (p. 55). And then he defines “Darwinism” in such a way that it does not “seem to cut against providentialist religion” (p. 55).

This is a perplexing claim, especially since Plantinga cites in a footnote on the previous page Casey Luskin’s article in God and Evolution. Luskin demonstrates that leading biology textbooks over and over and over and over again explain biological evolution in just the way Plantinga claims “current evolutionary science” does not. In fact, as the editor of God and Evolution, I asked Luskin to remove many of the examples he provided in the first draft of his chapter. He had provided far more examples than were necessary to prove the point. Do all these leading biology textbooks fail to teach “current evolutionary science”? Not likely. Thomas Kuhn rightly referred to textbooks as “pedagogical vehicles for the perpetuation of normal science.” Normal science, for Kuhn, doesn’t involve cutting edge discoveries that threaten to overturn the reigning scientific paradigm, but is rather the paradigm itself.

The denial of design and teleology in biology is an essential part of Darwinism and, unfortunately, it is how the modern theory of biological evolution is taught, explained, and understood by the vast majority of its champions and critics.

Of course, there were some who tried early on to reconcile Darwin’s theory with teleology, but they mistook Darwin’s intention in doing so. Asa Gray is the most prominent example. He sought to reconcile Darwin’s theory with natural theology, and urged Darwin to allow that God oversaw which variations would occur and when. Darwin famously rebuked — even mocked — Gray for making this suggestion, which Darwin insisted was no part of his theory.4

Similarly, Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of natural selection who later broke with Darwin, wrote a book entitled Darwinism in 1889. He continued to consider himself a “Darwinist” even after he rejected Darwin’s materialistic applications to man, sentience, and the origin of life. He had a personal relationship with Darwin and so was more inclined to criticize Darwin’s surrogates, such as Haeckel and Huxley — a tradition that continues to the present. When Herbert Spencer received his complimentary copy of Darwinism, however, he wrote to Wallace, “I regret that you have used the title ‘Darwinism,’ for notwithstanding your qualification of its meaning you will, by using it, tend greatly to confirm the erroneous conception almost universally current.”5 The erroneous conception was that Darwinism and Wallace’s teleological or intelligent evolution were compatible. Spencer understood that they were not.

The real question is why so many Christian scholars feel a need to pretend that there is some compatibility. Thoughts?

35 Replies to “Sigh. Some theologians are still trying to save Darwinisms’ soul ….

  1. 1
    material.infantacy says:

    Questioning whether Darwinism is compatible with Christianity is far safer than questioning whether Darwinism is compatible with the evidence.

    One can make very nuanced arguments about whether or not some definition of ‘random’ is compatible with some notion of God’s mode of activity, while avoiding completely the dangerously controversial topic of whether or not Darwinism can be helped at all by whichever definition of ‘random’ one chooses to apply.

  2. 2
    nullasalus says:

    Well, a few things.

    First, I don’t think Plantinga is rightly called a theologian. He’s a philosopher, a Christian philosopher, but my understanding is that ‘theologian’ covers a different class of individual than that.

    Second, Plantinga’s claim isn’t really contradicted by the evidence Richards cites. Let’s keep one thing in mind: when the National Association of Biology Teachers tried to define evolution as “impersonal” and “unsupervised”, Plantinga was right there, protesting that such a change went beyond science and into the realm of philosophy and metaphysics. So clearly he’s not unaware of these abuses. Nor does he suggest such abuses are miniscule and not happening often – even in textbooks.

    Plantinga’s view would be, if I interpret him right, that insofar as science is concerned, evolution is silent on the question of guidance and purpose. If some textbook teaches otherwise – that evolution is impersonal and unsupervised, for example – Plantinga would simply reply that the textbook was smuggling metaphysical and philosophical (and expressly non-scientific) claims in under the guise of science. The fact that it’s in a textbook doesn’t make it science.

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    Well, to add my unsolicited two cents worth. As readers of UD well know, Shapiro has revealed that the vast majority of changes in a genome are ‘non-random’;

    Revisiting the Central Dogma in the 21st Century – James A. Shapiro – 2009
    Excerpt: Realizing that DNA change is a biochemical process means that it is subject to regulation like other cellular activities. Thus, we expect to see genome change occurring in response to different stimuli (Table 1) and operating nonrandomly throughout the genome, guided by various types of intermolecular contacts (Table 1 of Ref. 112).
    http://shapiro.bsd.uchicago.ed.....0Dogma.pdf

    Which is a severely inconvenient finding for neo-Darwinists, to put it mildly, since the vast majority of the citations they put forth as proof for evolution are now removed from consideration since they are indeed found to be ‘non-random’.,,, But to the point of the topic, I recently looked for the ‘source of randomness’ in the universe and found this: When people try to create the best random number generators for various computer programs, and devices, they look for the maximum source of entropy they can find in order to base their random number generator on it, and the maximum source of entropic randomness in the universe is found to be Black Holes.

    Entropy of the Universe – Hugh Ross – May 2010
    Excerpt: Egan and Lineweaver found that supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to the observable universe’s entropy. They showed that these supermassive black holes contribute about 30 times more entropy than what the previous research teams estimated.
    http://www.reasons.org/entropy-universe

    Yet chaos is found to run rampant in Black Holes:

    Entropy of the Universe – Hugh Ross – May 2010
    Excerpt: Egan and Lineweaver found that supermassive black holes are the largest contributor to the observable universe’s entropy. They showed that these supermassive black holes contribute about 30 times more entropy than what the previous research teams estimated.
    http://www.reasons.org/entropy-universe

    Indeed entropic randomness is found to actually be a measure of disorder:

    Thermodynamics – 3.1 Entropy
    Excerpt:
    Entropy – A measure of the amount of randomness
    or disorder in a system.
    http://www.saskschools.ca/curr.....rgy3_1.htm

    And furthermore entropic randomness is the primary reason why organisms grow old and die (Dr. Sanford speaks a little on the effect of accumulating mutations within individual organisms as they age in this following video):

    Genetic Entropy – Dr. John Sanford – Evolution vs. Reality – video
    http://vimeo.com/35088933

    So basically, the reason why neo-Darwinists appeal to randomness is ‘anti-theistic’, in its foundational formulation, is because neo-Darwinists have, in physical reality, chosen disorder/chaos as their great creative engine for Darwinian evolution, but God himself has subjected their ‘great entropic creative engine’ they have chosen to frustration, to disorder, and to chaos;

    Verse and Music:

    Romans 8:18-21
    I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

    Keith Urban – For You
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gWK1sG3spiE

    Humorous look at the Darwinists predicament:

    Blackholes – The neo-Darwinian ‘god of entropic randomness’ which can create all things (at least according to them)
    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1fxhJEGNeEQ_sn4ngQWmeBt1YuyOs8AQcUrzBRo7wISw/edit

  4. 4
    bornagain77 says:

    correction, the citation under this sentence,,,

    Yet chaos is found to run rampant in Black Holes:

    was wrong and should read like this instead:

    “But why was the big bang so precisely organized, whereas the big crunch (or the singularities in black holes) would be expected to be totally chaotic? It would appear that this question can be phrased in terms of the behaviour of the WEYL part of the space-time curvature at space-time singularities. What we appear to find is that there is a constraint WEYL = 0 (or something very like this) at initial space-time singularities-but not at final singularities-and this seems to be what confines the Creator’s choice to this very tiny region of phase space.”
    Roger Penrose – How Special Was The Big Bang?

  5. 5
    material.infantacy says:

    I think the term ‘evolution’ is too abused to be applied to discussions of Christian theology anyway.

    Evolution, as an observation that some internal and/or external mechanisms drive change in the progeny of a reproducing organism, contains nothing of note with regards to whichever creation story one wishes to apply. There is no controversy, because saying, “evolution happens,” in this context carries no more explanatory power than saying, “the planets move, “ or, “water flows downhill.”

    However, evolution, as a causal claim, as in, “evolution drives change in species to innovate functions which contribute to, or enhance, survivability and reproducibility,” requires the introduction of the specific mechanism(s) that drive the changes attributed to ‘evolution.’ RV+NS have been the proposed extrinsic change mechanisms that complement one another to form the force of evolution. The accumulation of errors, in other words, copying errors and the like, which are heritable, is said to be responsible for the innovation credited to ‘evolution.’ This is what I know to be modern Darwinism.

    So it appears to me that the controversy is not whether ‘evolution’ is compatible with Christianity (it certainly is, as an observation of change over time) but rather whether Darwinism is compatible with Christianity — whether the random changes that putatively accumulate to produce innovations which are visible to natural selection, are attributable to God without invoking heresy, and without violating some definition of ‘randomness’ or another.

    One may find comfort in the notion that there exists a definition of ‘random’ which doesn’t preclude God’s involvement, in a significant way, in a Darwinian evolutionary scenario (I would disagree, but it doesn’t matter at the moment). That same person should find no comfort, however, in the notion that Darwinian processes, RV+NS, drive innovation in organisms that lead them from simple to complex, because no such evidence exists; and it appears, quite to the contrary, that intelligence is required, quite forcefully and deliberately, visibly even, in order to produce any sort of sophisticated innovation at all, especially that which we observe in biological organisms.

  6. 6

    nullasus:

    If some textbook teaches otherwise – that evolution is impersonal and unsupervised, for example – Plantinga would simply reply that the textbook was smuggling metaphysical and philosophical (and expressly non-scientific) claims in under the guise of science. The fact that it’s in a textbook doesn’t make it science.

    Fair enough as a technical point. As a practical matter, can anyone point to a mainstream textbook on evolution that does not assume as its starting point that the evolutionary mechanism it is discussing is impersonal and unsupervised? Often it is explicitly stated. When not explicitly stated, it is implicitly understood.

  7. 7
    nullasalus says:

    Eric,

    As a practical matter, can anyone point to a mainstream textbook on evolution that does not assume as its starting point that the evolutionary mechanism it is discussing is impersonal and unsupervised? Often it is explicitly stated. When not explicitly stated, it is implicitly understood.

    Honest to God, I have to wonder – has anyone been looking? It’s implied in the OP that the Discovery guys did. I’d love to see references.

    I mean, you’d think – especially given the NABT history – that would be the obvious course of action, eh? Let’s hit the textbooks (especially ones currently in use) with red marker in hand, and see where and when the abuse is popping up. I won’t be surprised if it’s found.

  8. 8
    nullasalus says:

    One thing I will add.

    For all my defense of Plantinga and Barr on these issues, I will agree that – if not in the textbooks (I’ve not seen them, or the references) – overwhelmingly, ‘evolution’ is communicated to the public in the way both men would regard as non-scientific. That’s a major problem.

    Surprisingly, the NCSE doesn’t seem to care too much about that. Why, it’s as if they don’t give a crap about mingling science and metaphysics.

  9. 9

    I’ve looked at a couple of textbooks. Of course the presentation is purely materialistic, but it is usually implied. I don’t recall offhand an explicit statement in a high school textbook, but in one college textbook I looked at a while ago (I believe it was Futuyma’s) it explicitly stated its materialist assumptions and even said that Darwin had rendered “design” superfluous. That is the textbook Philip Johnson cites when talking about metaphysical assumptions and the materialist basis of Marx, Freud, and Darwin. Actually Johnson is just quoting and highlighting the materialist thinking. It is Futuyma who glorifies Marx, Freud and Darwin as providing the materialistic explanation for everything.

  10. 10
    nullasalus says:

    If someone could get resources on these examples, I think we could have a grand old time on UD with that information. So anyone who has links, references, etc for these textbooks, please speak up with ’em. I’d be keenly interested in it all.

  11. 11
    Jon Garvey says:

    To defend Plantinga, philosophers are paid to analyse things as they are, rather than as people claim them to be. So it seems to me legitimate for him simply to point out where a theory is scientific and where it is smuggling in metaphysics, rather than waxing polemic about it.

    It’s the job of the non-philosophers amongst us then to point out the socio-political implications of his analysis.

  12. 12
    Jon Garvey says:

    I see Plantinga’s replied very fully in this vein on ENV. Don’t knock him – he’s one of the good guys, and he’s a michmore careful thinker than many.

  13. 13
    News says:

    Spot on! Anyone who questions Darwinism’s relationship to the evidence must prepare for battle with the tenure bores who live off it, the trolls to whose lives it gives meaning, and the imagination-challenged teachers for whom the curriculum is TRUTH.

    How much easier to raise academic questions about whether there is a conflict between faith and reason, or science and religion, or Christianity and Darwinism. No dispraise of scholars is meant here: Rather, in the real world, Darwinism is sinking under the weight of evidence but its defenders have redoubled their efforts to defend the entrenched culture it creates, which they easily dominate.

  14. 14
    News says:

    Good points, Jon Garvey, and no dispraise of the man is meant. But there are situations where being a scholar is a handicap.

    A scholar may be able to articulate some means whereby some version of Darwinism might not be anti-design and anti-purpose.
    Of course it won’t work, but it is a clever production.

    With the greatest respect, all that is a side show when you have to deal with the reality: The key Darwinists have never pretended any such thing. Do they not know their own system best? The one they enforce as dogma?

    The history of our culture has featured many examples of scholars trying to show how an antithetical system might accommodate its opposite (Stalinism really CAN be a form of democracy). But is there not a point – again, with respect – where such activities become irresponsible, and one had better just confront the reality?

  15. 15
    Jon Garvey says:

    News, you make valid points indeed.

    Yet it also true that anything in which humans participate will have an on-the-ground reality maybe very different from the core truth. For example, Martin Luther had to deal with the fact that Christianity as he found it – with mediaeval Catholicism more entrenched than Darwinism has ever been – was actually virtually incompatible with salvation. In other words if he had taken Christianity as the sociological reality he would have had to conclude that it was false.

    Instead, he dug down to see what the core of the gospel was, and found that, purged of a millennium of baggage, it was life and truth. And he prevailed, because even the Roman Church was forced to re-examine and purge itself.

    Plantinga, of course, is not in the business of deciding whether evolution by RM & NS is true, but whether as a scientific theory it is compatible with theism. Fortunately he’s a bit less likely to be burned at the stake by either side than Luther.

  16. 16
    News says:

    Okay, but there is no way of purging Darwinism down to a gospel truth. Plantinga is surely in error here or fooling himself.

    The Catholic Church was immensely corrupt, but not in principle at war with Christianity, only in practice. Not sure where the comparison with Darwinism lies.

    It is a real concern that well-meaning Christian philosophers/theologians need to construct a safe Darwinism for Christians when its founders and promoters intend no such thing.

  17. 17
    StephenB says:

    I find Richards’ analysis penetrating, as usual. Plantinga, I am sorry to say, seems to miss the central point.

    In order to successfully integrate theism with macro-evolution, the Christian must affirm a directed or guided process, the outcome of which is caused by the Creator and faithfully reflects His intentions. Only two logical choices are on the table and only one of them is acceptable for the theist: Either the process has a purpose, meaning that it is pro-ordained to produce a specified outcome, namely man, or else it is a purposeless, mindless process that could have produced many possible outcomes. The first option is open to the Christian; the second is not. So far, Plantinga gets it, but he doesn’t take it far enough.

    In spite of this logical requirement, the Christian Darwinist seeks to escape its demands by positing a non-teleological Darwinian process even as he employs the rhetoric of teleology as a cover. In “The Language of God,” Francis Collins, who founded the organization, implies that if we rewound the clock several hundred million years, the emergence of higher intelligence might have come in the form of a reptile. (Randomness in the Darwinian sense is radical. It isn’t being constrained to move toward a final end because, in that sense, it recognizes no final end. When Christian Darwinists accept the neo-Darwinian paradigm, they embrace undirected evolution by default).

    In addressing this problem, Collins responds in the following way:

    How is this consistent with the theological concept that humans are created “in the image of God?” Well, perhaps one shouldn’t get too hung up on the notion that this scripture is referring to physical anatomy—the image of God seems a lot more about mind than body. Does God have toenails? A belly button?

    Clearly, Collins (and most of his followers at Biologos), are quite comfortable with a God who takes chances with a purposeless process, defined as a truly random mechanism that could have produced almost anything—including reptilian physiology coupled with a rational soul—including, one gathers, a resurrected reptilian body that worships God in the afterlife. Heaven only knows what they would be willing to concede with respect to the Incarnation and the Son of God taking on human flesh. I am fearful of taking this point any further.

    Collins continues:

    But how could God take such chances? If evolution is random, how could He really be in charge, and how could he be certain of an outcome that included intelligent beings at all?l

    How indeed?

    The solution is actually readily at hand, once one ceases to apply human limitations to God. If God is outside nature, then he is outside of space and time. In that context, God could, in the moment of creation of the universe also know every detail of the future.

    There is much bad logic here. Notice how Collins has quietly shifted the argument from the relevant question of what God DID or CAUSED to the irrelevant question of what God KNOWS. If the outcome of evolution is certain, it can only be because God insured that outcome by creating a teleological process that would infallibly produce it, not because He also happens to know the outcome. God either designed evolution to produce the desired result or He didn’t. There is no third option. God’s omniscience cannot compensate for what God’s omnipotence doesn’t do.

    Christian Darwinists want to have it both ways. Yes, they say, God is in control of the process, but no, He didn’t really specify the outcome. Ridiculous!

  18. 18
    material.infantacy says:

    StephenB, suppose I said, “God acted deliberately through a process that to us appears entirely random, as an act of his sovereign will.” Would that end the equivocation, and would I be making a logically and theologically consistent statement?

    Just curious about your views on that, whether ‘randomness’ as a veil, as a method of disguising God’s activity, has any merit in attempting to reconcile Darwinian processes with some definition of intentional creation.

    In my view, randomness as a causal phenomenon is logically incompatible with observed specified complexity in living systems, so having God hide behind a random process leaves him with precious little power in effecting the types of purposeful modifications that would be necessary in order to transform living organisms. Theologically (and simplistically) I believe that an invisible God who is entirely evident by the effects of his activity is consistent with scripture, and that a God who masks his activity so as to disguise himself is not.

  19. 19
    material.infantacy says:

    “Notice how Collins has quietly shifted the argument from the relevant question of what God DID or CAUSED to the irrelevant question of what God KNOWS.”

    Ah, good eye for the ol’ bait-n-switch. “Just because God doesn’t personally see to every aspect of creation doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how it all turns out.” I can almost see this hinting at a theological multiverse, perhaps suggesting tacitly that God could simply pick and choose the right outcome after the fact.

  20. 20
    StephenB says:

    m.i.

    I agree that the above formulation is theologically problematic since it challenges the teaching that God reveals himself in nature (Romans 1:20). I also interpret that same Biblical passage to confirm the correspondence theory of truth (We have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two).

    If, therefore, we concede, or even suspect, that God made purposefulness appear as purposelessness, then it would seem that the universe is not a rational place after all. It reminds me of a question that was once put to Robert Russell, one of the heroes of the Christian Darwinists: “True or false. ““Evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind. Russell answered this way: “From a theological perspective– false, from a scientific perspective–true.”

    His incredibly incoherent philosophy, by the way, seems calculated to make room for Darwinian randomness even at the cost of rationality itself. Ironically, his world view is embraced by those same people who tell us that “there is no conflict between science and religion,” and who can’t wait to lampoon “fundamentalists” for believing that God made the universe look older than it really is.

  21. 21
    jeffblue101 says:

    nullasalus, here is a textbook that indoctrinates students into the worldview of atheistic naturalism.

    Evolution, Second Edition by Douglas J. Futuyma
    http://www.amazon.com/Evolutio.....0878933921

    page 282
    Supernatural processes cannot be the subject of science, so when Darwin offered a purely natural, materialistic alternative to the argument from design, he not only shook the foundations of theology and philosophy, but brought every aspect of the study of life into the realm of science. His alternative to intelligent design was design by the completely mindless process of natural selection, according to which organisms possessing variations that enhance survival or reproduction replace those less suitably endowed, which therefore survive or reproduce in lesser degree. This process cannot have a goal, any morethan erosion has the goal of forming canyons, for the future cannot cause material events in the present. Thus the concepts of goals or purposes have no place in biology (or in any other of the natural sciences), except in studies of human behavior

  22. 22
    Jon Garvey says:

    material.infantacy:

    Theologically (and simplistically) I believe that an invisible God who is entirely evident by the effects of his activity is consistent with scripture, and that a God who masks his activity so as to disguise himself is not.

    Surely this is a question of degree. There’s no doubt that Romans teaches that God’s ruling of creation ought to be obvious to all not blinded by sin.

    But Scripture also teaches that chance events (the flying axe-head, the casting of a lot, the falling sparrow) are under God’s control – and it has to teach that because otherwise it’s not obvious to us. We call chance events like those “chance” because they appear to have no cause.

    So is God hiding himself in those events that we do attribute to chance, like the throw of dice? The fact you can’t see me doesn’t mean I’m hiding, or that I’m trying to deceive you. So it’s risky, I think, to make the avoidance of chance (as commonly understood) a principle of God’s activity. You can say there’s no such thing as chance, really, because God governs it. But you still have to have some word to distinguish tossing a coin from placing it carefully heads up.

    But to allow “real” chance in, say, roulette though not in creation would be both to set chance up as a power distinct from God in those restricted areas – and God is the Lord of the small as well as the great.

  23. 23
    PaV says:

    StephenB

    If, therefore, we concede, or even suspect, that God made purposefulness appear as purposelessness, then it would seem that the universe is not a rational place after all. It reminds me of a question that was once put to Robert Russell, one of the heroes of the Christian Darwinists: “True or false. ““Evolution is a purposeless, mindless process that did not have man in mind. Russell answered this way: “From a theological perspective– false, from a scientific perspective–true.”

    If the world appears less than rational, first let’s remind ourselves that everything was fine in Eden until the Devil appeared, and human reason has suffered ever since. Secondly, Jesus tells the parable in which the owner plants his crop, but, his laborers come and tell him that there are weeds in the field. The owner says he sees that his enemy has been at work.

    In this day and age wherein we go to the movies and see all kinds of unnatural things occur—unnatural from a mechanistic point of view—because of Satanic involvement, why must we always blame God for the messiness of this world.? Thirdly, if we, as Christians, have been chosen in Him since BEFORE the world began, then certainly God knew ahead of time that sin would enter this world. So why would he make it perfect? Why would he permanently entrust a perfect world (it wouldn’t be perfect if it were to be superseded by another world) to sinners? No, we have to wait. We have to prove ourselves worthy. We have to run the race.

    So, we don’t need to be Christian Darwinists so as to deal with a world in which there is evil. God stand above every evil thing, including the Evil One. But our perfect world awaits the time when the Evil One will be locked up for all eternity.

    Happy Easter everyone.

  24. 24
    nullasalus says:

    jeff,

    nullasalus, here is a textbook that indoctrinates students into the worldview of atheistic naturalism.

    Thank you. Yes, that’s a stellar example of abuse we should be fighting.

  25. 25
    material.infantacy says:

    Stephen, thanks for the reply. I suspected you would agree that purposefulness is antithetical to randomness. The Robert Russel quote is appreciated. Perhaps those who see no conflict between science and faith also observe nothing substantially in common between them.

    Just back from a power outage — reminds me how much I like electricity.

  26. 26
    material.infantacy says:

    Hi Jon Garvey,

    “Surely this is a question of degree. There’s no doubt that Romans teaches that God’s ruling of creation ought to be obvious to all not blinded by sin.”

    Perhaps degree, or perhaps kind. I believe Romans chapter 1 teaches us that attributes of God’s nature are revealed in creation, namely, his “eternal power” and “divine nature.” To my mind, at least in part, this speaks to the highly contingent and specific state of affairs revealed in both the anthropic fine tuning of the universe, and the stunning sophistication of the myriad coordinated systems present in living organisms. These things require a mind, and so forcefully suggest a divine intelligence with unimaginable power.

    I didn’t intend to suggest that God has no sway over random events however. But I would suggest that God’s involvement in random events is limited by the nature of ‘random.’ First I would note that there is no contradiction between logic and randomness, only between order (purpose) and random events. Randomness is logical. Rolling a fair six-sided die is expected to yield P(E) = 1/6 for any single value, as the number of trials gets very large. We can also count on P(S) = 1, when S is the set {1,2,3,4,5,6}. To me, God’s involvement is evident here, in that random events appear to rest upon a foundation of reason.

    A property of randomness that is perhaps exploitable by a divine mind is the order of events in a random series. If, while playing at the craps table, I rolled 7, 11, 6, 6, 7, 4, 8, 9, 2, 12, 4, 7, the outcome from a monetary perspective would be entirely different than the series 2, 4, 7, 12, 8, 11, 6, 4, 7, 6, 9, 7, but statistically the same from the perspective of events in the series (especially if the winning streak is compensated by a losing streak at a nearby table) and simply insignificant as the number of trials increases. Rolling twelve sevens in a row however, and I might be asked to leave the casino, as the pattern is definite, and its probability is less than one in two billion.

    That idea might be a little too simplistic to survive scrutiny, but I think it’s easy to at least imagine how random events could be shuffled and compensated for without violating the wisdom established in randomness itself. What can’t be imagined however, is random events defying their parameters and allowing one to navigate specificity to such an astounding degree as to produce the definite order evident in the universe and the creatures that inhabit it. That type of occurrence is simply not compatible with the precedence established in randomness.

    I believe God has dominion over random events as well as the wisdom embodied in purpose. However one cannot function like the other, because in nature they occupy different domains. So while I do believe is is perfectly acceptable for God to affect outcomes through randomness, it is not logically possible to equate randomness with purpose, for a this reason: because God has established the parameters of random occurrences to occupy a different logical domain than purpose — he has given them different clothes to wear — they are adorned to be distinct. If God were to use randomness to produce order, one could no longer rightly call it randomness, because it would no longer display the properties of random events.

    So I hope I don’t entirely miss your point, but randomness is randomness because God has ordered it to be so. If it is to remain randomness, it must follow random’s rules. This doesn’t preclude God from traveling in its domain, but it certainly limits him by his own decree, that events governed by necessity are subject to predictable variance distributed among an established range of possibilities. God is, of course, free to end this order at any time, just as he is free to pluck tomorrow’s sunrise off of the eastern edge of creation. However for the short term, I’m content to count on them both — and leave God able, but not compelled, to order random events in any way he sees fit without violating his own decree.

    m.i.

  27. 27
    Jon Garvey says:

    m.i.

    I think we have more or less the same hymn sheet. My point was that to insist that God’s activity be entirely visible is, inevitably, to suggest that what is less visible (eg events that follow the statistical laws of chance) are excluded from God’s work. Which is shooting oneself in the theological foot.

    If one is talking about events that are, in fact, highly visible (like the non-law-based production of a complex protein chain that is agreed to be more than improbable) then the question doesn’t really arise in the form you suggest. In such cases no mechanism is visible – just the brute fact of a highly contingent outcome.

    The unbeliever will always be able to suggest that nature got lucky, that multiverses make the lucky inevitable and so on, but the smaller the probability, the less plausible the claim. Very low probabilities are indeed, in themselves, a pointer to God’s activity: assuming, that is, that one is aware of all the factors that might show the probability to be much greater.

    But supposing, per impossibile, some new chemical factor came to light that showed such proteins stood a 1:50 chance of forming in a million years (say). That higher probability wouldn’t show God’s lack of involvement any more than the “random” survival of one insect egg in 50 does – it’s even compatible with his deciding which insect “randomly” survives, should he be bothered. Neither would it, to me, suggest his deliberate hiding of himself – mankind was created knowing God’s involvement anyway, so what was to hide?

  28. 28
    material.infantacy says:

    Jon,

    I’m not suggesting that all of God’s activity be entirely visible, however I did suggest that an invisible God, being evident by the visible effects of his works, is entirely consistent with scripture.

    “Theologically (and simplistically) I believe that an invisible God who is entirely evident by the effects of his activity is consistent with scripture, and that a God who masks his activity so as to disguise himself is not.

    On the flip side, I definitely suggested that a god who intentionally masks his activity so as to disguise himself is not consistent with scripture. There may be exceptions, of course, and my assertion may be demonstrably wrong, but I’ll offer a few points of clarification.

    But Scripture also teaches that chance events (the flying axe-head, the casting of a lot, the falling sparrow) are under God’s control…

    In the case of the floating (did you mean floating?) axe head, we have testimony of a miracle. In the case of the falling sparrow, we have a declaration of God’s will. Only in the case of casting lots do I see Gods activity taking place in the vein of random events, and I would protest the claim that he is intentionally hiding so as to disguise himself there. I believe there to be a difference between God using random events to affect an outcome, and him using random events so as to mask a visible work behind a veil of chance. God’s use of lots in ceremonial worship had the effect of bringing him visibly into the process, not hiding his involvement, at least that’s my take.

    So I’m not necessarily insisting that everything God does be recognizably visible (and how he does it). I am suggesting that as a modus operandi, God’s works are evident, and that this notion is consistent with scripture.

    If one is talking about events that are, in fact, highly visible (like the non-law-based production of a complex protein chain that is agreed to be more than improbable) then the question doesn’t really arise in the form you suggest. In such cases no mechanism is visible – just the brute fact of a highly contingent outcome.

    However I’m not suggesting that the process (mechanism) be visible, only the effects. We can observe the extant result of a process, in this case biological creation, and take note of its contingent and specified nature, and infer a mind. We are not left wondering if God used randomness to bring it about; we can say with confidence that God’s work of creation is evident in its effect — it is not masked by chaotic events. This would not be the case if the evidence suggested that random mutations filtered by natural selection were capable of traversing complex functionality. The problem I have with this whole Christian Darwinism thing is the insistence that we find some sort of theological parity with a chaotic creative force when the evidence runs contrary to any conclusion that chaos was responsible for the process. The signature on that idea is familiar and disconcerting.

    But supposing, per impossibile, some new chemical factor came to light that showed such proteins stood a 1:50 chance of forming in a million years (say). That higher probability wouldn’t show God’s lack of involvement any more than the “random” survival of one insect egg in 50 does – it’s even compatible with his deciding which insect “randomly” survives, should he be bothered. Neither would it, to me, suggest his deliberate hiding of himself – mankind was created knowing God’s involvement anyway, so what was to hide?

    It may not show God’s lack of involvement, but we would have no reason to insist that a mind was responsible at the biological level. We would retreat to cosmological arguments, and instead attempt to demonstrate that the fidelity of necessity, to produce such complex and ordered systems, is only explicable in terms of a divine mind. In that case it certainly wouldn’t be hiding, it would just be how God chose to do it, and his works would be visible in the parameters of necessity that permitted the spontaneous generation of life. We only have the “hiding” problem when we attempt to credit both God and random events at the same time, for something that is evidently the active work of a brilliantly creative mind — because no such evidence for the efficacy of blind processes exists.

    The suggestion that God hid his creative activity in establishing life behind a veil of randomness is not a matter of observation, it is a matter of faith.

    Let me know if I missed addressing anything!

  29. 29
    Jon Garvey says:

    m.i.

    Sounds about right. Regarding Scripture references:

    Flying axe-heads(not prophetically floating miraculous ones!) – allusion to cities of refuge – Exodus 21.13 says (unless Bowdlerised by NIV) that these are for unintentional manslaughter when “God delivers him into his hand”, of which Deut 19.5 is later given as an example.

    Sparrows: we have a declaration of God’s will not specific to sparrows, but even to sparrows: Jesus means that even what seems random and trivially destructive is not apart from God’s will (in order to teach that what happens to believers is even less so, such as a flying shard of glass or a falling sparrow harming a hair of our heads, presumably).

    Lots: Proverbs 16.33. Every decision of the lot is from the Lord. Even when it follows a statistical distribution.

    All these are typically chance events which Scripture shows to be actually under God’s control. I agree God’s involvement is not deliberately hidden, but it’s made explicit only by teaching.

    So I agree that nothing precludes the possibility of God’s activity in nature being obvious. I agree that nothing says he would hide his involvement (he does say he’s a God who hides himself, but not in that context). All I’m stressing is that, should his involvement in creation at any stage involve chance events, as in my three examples, then it would not be an example of his hiding his involvement, since he’s explicitly taught us that what we call chance is one of the things he works through.

    One could imagine, for example, an example of sparrows falling to the ground more often when they are less fit for the environment … though you would maybe need to provide more evidence of it actually working that way than biologists have managed so far.

  30. 30
    material.infantacy says:

    Jon, thanks for a good conversation, and for giving me the opportunity to clarify some of my thoughts. Thanks also for the scripture references. It seems we view things very much alike.

    I’ll add that with lots, the proper random distribution is mandatory — other events, IMO, have more explicable causes, and appearances of randomness may be more a matter of ignorance than statistical distribution. That was the purpose of my craps table example, to suggest that the order of events for a lots-like scenario can effect outcome and still be statistically random, or at least statistically undetectable, allowing God to influence random events without violating their “randomness” if that makes any real sense.

  31. 31
    Mung says:

    Do all these leading biology textbooks fail to teach “current evolutionary science”? Not likely.

    More likely than not, imo.

  32. 32
    Mung says:

    If the world appears less than rational, first let’s remind ourselves that everything was fine in Eden until the Devil appeared, and human reason has suffered ever since.

    So once the devil appeared Adam and Eve lost the ability to think rationally?

    Why is it then that Satan appealed to their reason?

    If … then

    But … really?

    You will not …

    The problem introduced by Satan was not one of rationality or the lack thereof, and to say so is to undermine Christianities major claims?

    So speaking of Easter?

    You see that empty tomb there?

    It’s empty because He is risen.

  33. 33
    Mung says:

    In spite of this logical requirement, the Christian Darwinist seeks to escape its demands by positing a non-teleological Darwinian process even as he employs the rhetoric of teleology as a cover.

    “Non-teleological process” is an oxymoron.

    Process: a systematic series of actions directed to some end

  34. 34
    StephenB says:

    Mung: “Non-teleological process is an oxymoron.”

    I am inclined to agree. Unfortunately, our adversaries redefine words (as in, evolution is a purposeless, mindless “process”) to suit their purpose of obfuscating.

    Alas, we must at least allude to those linguistic malformations long enough to expose the contradictions that are inherent in them.

    Greg Koukl, for example, lampoons Christian Darwinists for positing the oxymoronic philosophy of “design by chance.”

  35. 35
    Dov Henis says:

    There cannot be randomness in an evolving universe!!!

    Higgs Particle? Dark Energy/Matter? Epigenetics?
    YOK!
    Update Concepts-Comprehension…
    http://universe-life.com/2011/.....d-whither/

    Evolution Is The Quantum Mechanics Of Natural Selection.
    The quantum mechanics of every process is its evolution.
    Quantum mechanics are mechanisms, possible or probable or actual mechanisms of natural selection.

    =================
    Universe-Energy-Mass-Life Compilation
    http://universe-life.com/2012/.....mpilation/

    A. The Universe

    From the Big-Bang it is a rationally commonsensical conjecture that the gravitons, the smallest base primal particles of the universe, must be both mass and energy, i.e. inert mass yet in motion even at the briefest fraction of a second of the pre Big Bang singularity. This is rationally commonsensical since otherwise the Big would not have Banged, the superposition of mass and energy would not have been resolved.
    The universe originates, derives and evolves from this energy-mass dualism which is possible and probable due to the small size of the gravitons.
    Since gravitation Is the propensity of energy reconversion to mass and energy is mass in motion, gravity is the force exerted between mass formats.
    All the matter of the universe is a progeny of the gravitons evolutions, of the natural selection of mass, of some of the mass formats attaining temporary augmented energy constraint in their successive generations, with energy drained from other mass formats, to temporarily postpone, survive, the reversion of their own constitutional mass to the pool of cosmic energy fueling the galactic clusters expansion set in motion by the Big Bang.

    B. Earth Life

    Earth Life is just another mass format. A self-replicating mass format. Self-replication is its mode of evolution, natural selection. Its smallest base primal units are the RNAs genes.
    The genesis of RNAs genes, life’s primal organisms, is rationally commonsensical thus highly probable, the “naturally-selected” RNA nucleotides. Life began/evolved on Earth with the natural selection of inanimate RNA, then of some RNA nucleotides, then arriving at the ultimate mode of natural selection, self-replication.

    C. Know Thyself. Life Is Simpler Than We Are Told

    The origin-reason and the purpose-fate of life are mechanistic, ethically and practically valueless. Life is the cheapest commodity on Earth.
    As Life is just another mass format, due to the oneness of the universe it is commonsensical that natural selection is ubiquitous for ALL mass formats and that life, self-replication, is its extension. And it is commonsensical, too, that evolutions, broken symmetry scenarios, are ubiquitous in all processes in all disciplines and that these evolutions are the “quantum mechanics” of the processes.

    Human life is just one of many nature’s routes for the natural survival of RNAs, the base primal Earth organisms.

    Life’s evolution, self-replication:

    Genes (organisms) to genomes (organisms) to mono-cellular to multicellular organisms:

    Individual mono-cells to cooperative mono-cells communities, “cultures”.
    Mono-cells cultures to neural systems, then to nerved multicellular organisms.

    Human life is just one of many nature’s routes for the natural survival of RNAs, the base Earth organism.
    It is up to humans themselves to elect the purpose and format of their life as individuals and as group-members.

    Dov Henis (comments from 22nd century)
    An Embarrassingly Obvious Theory Of Everything
    http://universe-life.com/2011/.....verything/

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