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Chance vs. Randomness: Another theological dance in Darwin’s defense?

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Let’s hope not. From the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding:

One recent morning I gave my friend John Wilson, the longtime editor of Books & Culture, a copy of my new book, Introducing Evangelical Theology. By early evening he was tweeting his dissent about p. 122. There I summarize parameters from Donald Bloesch: “God’s providence is personal: we do not believe in fate. God’s providence involves design: we do not believe in chance.” John objected, “I’m a Christian, and I believe in chance.” However, he went on to concede, “But ‘chance’ has so many meanings. It turns out to be surprisingly tricky to define.” Indeed.

I responded with a distinction that surfaced through conversations related to the Creation Project, between chance and randomness. We can acknowledge “randomness” within God’s providence, while rejecting “chance” in the sense of fundamentally uncertain events lying outside the scope of God’s will. John and a couple of other tweeters decided that the subject needs more discussion, and here we are. This isn’t surprising, since these matters are perennial…

What is “chance,” how (if at all) is it different from “randomness,” and what place (if any) do these concepts have within Christian faith and understanding?


Daniel Treier, “What are the chances?” at Sapientia (September 23, 2019)

Pardon the suspicion but some of us remember sneery “science-splains” at theistic evolution sites as to how there is a huge difference between chance and randomness—which sounded exactly like some scuzz claiming that there is a huge difference between taking money to keep quiet about wrongdoing and a bribe.

The whole scene just seemed like an excuse for Christian Darwinism and other church closers. Maybe this is a happy exception.

Then as now, the proper response is: no scuzz, no – (O’Leary for News)

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10 Replies to “Chance vs. Randomness: Another theological dance in Darwin’s defense?

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    ET says:

    With evolution the random nature of mutations means they are chance events- not planned, they are accidents, errors and mistakes.

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    Ed George says:

    ET

    With evolution the random nature of mutations means they are chance events- not planned, they are accidents, errors and mistakes.

    No, it doesn’t mean that they are chance events. Certain chemicals and radiations will induce mutations at predictable rates. But, other than our efforts in biological research, I agree that they are not planned. And, as they are not planned, it is not possible for them to be errors or mistakes.

    Use of these types of words, something that I and most scientists are also guilty of, is the inappropriate application of anthropometric terms.

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    ET says:

    Acartia Eddie:

    No, it doesn’t mean that they are chance events.

    Ernst Mayr disagrees with you:

    The first step in selection, the production of genetic variation, is almost exclusively a chance phenomenon except that the nature of the changes at a given locus is strongly constrained.

    You lose, again

    And, as they are not planned, it is not possible for them to be errors or mistakes.

    Evolutionary biologists disagree with you. Copying errors creep in. And they are called errors and mistakes in the literature. Accidents occur when DNA is damaged.

    Clearly Acartia Eddie doesn’t know what it is talking about.

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    Silver Asiatic says:

    Theistic evolution destroys the concept of Creation since the creative act of God requires intention, and blind, random, chance, unplanned, unintelligent actions lack an intention.
    The First Cause is the creator of all contingent reality and is therefore Intelligent and Intentional.

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    ET says:

    If mutations aren’t accidents, errors or mistakes, then why is there a proof-reading and error-correction process? 😎

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    ET says:

    Acartia Eddie? Anything to say in the face of my refutation of your claim?

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    ET says:

    As supported by many references, with evolution, the random nature of mutations means they are chance events- not planned, they are accidents, errors and mistakes.

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