So this must be where I got my idea for how to raise my son! Thanks for pitching this into the discussion!
I would explain to my fellow moms and dads that I hoped to give my son a trajectory rather than a required plan… a trajectory in which he could move and turn as he pleased… but if he didn’t come up with any better ideas, he would still land on some helpful place on the board of life.
I had no idea how prophetic this would be… my son is, shall we say, a little light on motivation. But the trajectory I had put him on (in anticipation of some of this) was a 4+ year stint in the Air Force.
Henon Maps are a bit cerebral… but I at least understand what he is getting at. In the bottom half of this article, Henon maps are discussed:
Seriously, it is a real quandary when you try to quantify just how God “sustains” creation and guides it to achieve his will. I suspect that his response to Job is pretty much how he addresses that subject, so don’t think I will press it. I think God’s response to Job is in the background along with some of the other baggage when I consider ID with a jaundiced eye, as I consider it unknowable, though will agree with you that God may well use a cosmic ray here and there.
I guess there could be a few cosmic ray babies here and there. Though perhaps you should know that a direct hit by cosmic rays would do a very large amount of damage. They typically hit the upper atmosphere and create a shower of neutrons, each of which can do plenty of damage by themselves.
Some of the most primitive organisms, like bacteria, will preserve damage from UV radiation in order to introduce variation into their genome. I guess you might want to thank the sun god for those. But this is too random for the more complex organisms and that is why they have mechanisms of their own for introducing variation into their genome in a more limited and controlled way.
You do understand that I do understand the physics of high energy particles and elegromagnetic radiation enough to know that some “hits” could create a mutation … and other “hits” could easily destroy the whole gene.
Wow… so much weirdness… Christians can endlessly bandy about ideas like the Sun stopping in the middle of the sky, or Samson having magic hair… or an Ark loading itself with all the terrestrial animals of Earth …
… but as soon as someone talks about something that actually HAPPENS … like cosmic radiation degrading animal DNA… people start flipping out with all sorts of caveats.
Just stumbled onto this thread, thinking it was about the survey results from Pew… seems like it has gotten a little off topic! But it is a topic I think is very important and very misunderstood, and one I’ve spent a fair bit of time working on. Someone linked to my “Does God Guide Evolution?” post earlier. At the ASA meeting last summer, I developed and expanded that a bit more, claiming there are several ways one might go about reconciling the two claims (to which I’m committed):
God intentionally created human beings in his image.
Evolution is the best scientific description for the origin of Homo sapiens.
(You can find the audio and slides of that presentation here.)
To summarize these four ways:
Semantic: Human is not the same as Homo sapiens; this opens up several possibilities.
Ontological: find a causal joint in nature (e.g., quantum indeterminacy or cosmic rays) that are the mechanism by which God guides natural processes.
Nomological: God front-loaded the process of evolution with “laws” to ensure creatures like us would emerge.
Epistemological: these two statements come from different discourses and so should not be forced into the same one.
My preferred way is #4, but I think all of them are worth talking about. And, of course, lots of people think it is a cop-out to answer the question “how do you reconcile these two statements?” with “they shouldn’t be reconciled.” Obviously, there is more to my position than that.
Over at the Sapientia online journal at the Henry Center at TEDS, I’m contributing to an online forum for which I was asked to respond (in 1750 words!) to the question, “Does Evolutionary Creation allow for detectable divine action?” Essay is submitted. I’m interested to see the other contributions.
That is kind of my first reaction to number #4, and at first I thought to say I go with all of these ways except #4. But then I had second thoughts…
Human is NOT the same as homo sapiens. I am a very strong proponent of this. I believe that our humanity consists of the fact that we are primarily memetic organisms rather than genetic organism – minds rather than simply primates. The animals are undeniably are brethren with regards to our bodily functions. But our abstract capable language with an ability to encode information surpassing that of DNA, sets us apart and by this we can have a inheritance directly from God that makes us His children rather than theirs.
Quantum physics means that the laws of nature are not causally closed and this is crucial if you are a theist rather than a Deist. But this is not to keep God in a position of designer and controller but to allow that He does have a role of shepherd, teacher, and parent.
Even if God does not design particular living things themselves (not only incompatible with what “life” means, but would suggest God is an inept bungler), God nevertheless designed the nature of the physical universe in order to accomplish the purpose for which He created it.
Certainly there is a difference in these two claims with regards to which questions they are addressing: why and how. Also it should be understood that the reconciliation is purely a matter of philosophy and religion rather than science. In other words the separation between these claims is one way only, for while religion has no relevance to science, it is not the case that science has no relevance to religion (not quite “separate magisteria”).
But when science and religion are in dialogue, you still pick a discourse. When you start talking about how science informs our understanding of the human soul, for example, you are in the discourse of religion.
My problem with cosmic radiation (and other such solutions) is that it only pushes the problem back one step. If we want to know how God guides evolution, and we answer with “by making cosmic rays hit our gonads and cause mutations”, then it is a perfectly legitimate question to ask, “Well how does God make cosmic rays hit our gonads?”. And if the answer to that latter question is, “God just says it and it happens”, then I’d like to know why God can’t just say “Homo sapiens evolve” and that happens. And if instead you answer that question with another mechanism of some sort, I’m going to repeat this process of pushing things back one more level, but not answering the questions!
Even though I am not in favor of that particular idea, this is actually not much of a problem because of quantum physics. Cosmic rays, whether high energy photons or other particles are waves until they collide with something and where they hit is a matter of decoherence of the wave, which is not determined by any hidden variable within the scientific worldview. Therefore it is a possibility that God does on a occasion choose where these cosmic rays hit. At least, there is nothing in such a suggestion which is inconsistent with the findings of science.
Making God responsible for the destruction of the dinosaurs with a big meteor or comet is only a little more difficult. In that case, you also need the nonlinearity of gravitional mechanics involving three or more bodies, which can depend on initial conditions of an arbitrarily degee of precision which brings in quantum physics again.
Oh please! Anybody can do THAT! Just try it. Take some bacteria in a petri dish and say “bateria evolve” then wait… and guess what? They will evolve! Ok, maybe you have to wait a long time. I think you need a little different example to make your point on that one.
Well yes… you can play the two year old “why?” game. But then you are just being unreasonable. We do have some starting points like the belief that God can create the whole universe out of nothing in a “let there be light” big bang of some sort. Surely if God can do that, then He can also arrange some of these things which are not actually dictated by natural law, “let there be a quantum fluctation right about… there!”
I understand what you are saying here… But BioLogos has done a good job of accommodating flexibility on this point that I always thought was an optimum solution. It would appear every Christian has a unique “optimum” balance between super-natural solutions and natural solutions!
For example, I have posted on more than one occasion that I’m equally comfortable with the idea that God guided a dino-killing asteroid to hit Earth… using one of two possible ways!:
From the moment of creation, God configured the start of the Universe with a plan in which 13 billion years later, an asteroid that might have been created 10 billion years earlier, is hurtling towards Earth all according to Natural processes.
God opted to use Super-Natural (“woo woo” and “poooof!” processes) to create the dino-killing asteroid somewhere around Saturn, and then flung it towards Earth for a precise collision.
We have no evidence either way … and since I’ve agreed to not try to make decisions about beliefs for others, I leave it to each person how they think God did it. The Bible talks about God making it rain … most of us imagine this as part of Evaporation and Condensation. But if someone felt there was a “poooof!” or two that created some rain storms… would this be too distressing to imagine?
While the following comment doesn’t really apply to me (I"m a Unitarian), the typical Christian involved in discussions like this are not exactly opposed to the “wooo-wooo” miracles like the virgin birth of Jesus … or the miraculous resurrection of Jesus. So miracles shouldn’t necessarily be a weak-spot for Christians, right?
As for Cosmic rays … or any of the hundreds of vectors that by natural processes cause mutations… it’s really no different from the dino-killing asteroid, yes? God could have pointed his finger right at his intended target … and then spoke a “pooooof!”… or he could have arranged for that vector of radiation from the very, very beginning of time. Who is to say? And certainly Christians shouldn’t be alarmed at the thought that God might perform a miracle.
In the video link I put in this thread (around post 87!), we have Behe on camera not even flinching when he basically describes all of Intelligent Design without a single miraculous “poof!”… other than the Big Poof of the Big Bang.
[Click on the image with the text to enlarge the font for maximum legibility!]
If the hero of the ID movement can be a hero without even mentioning Adam & Eve or special creation used for their arrival, I don’t think there’s much pressure on any of us to have to provide any definitive explanations.
This is precisely what I called the ontological strategy. In my talk about this I said I almost called it the “reductive” strategy, but that can have negative connotations. I do think, though, that it is attempting to reduce one level of phenomena (personal action) to another level (scientific causation). It is what is called NIODA (non-interventionist objective divine action) in the literature, and has been championed by Bob Russell. He contributed to the big series we did on divine action back in 2016. I think it is worth talking about, but I don’t find it that helpful in answering the question of how God interacts with the natural world. Saying, as you do:
doesn’t help me at all if I’m looking for the scientific details. It merely shifts the discourse from a scientific one to a personal one. And despite you comparing me to a two-year old for doing so, you’ve not persuaded me that I’ve actually done something wrong by asking “how does God do that??”. My point is that if you can switch discourses at that point, why can’t I switch discourses earlier and just say “God intentionally created us.”?
I’m also not persuaded by your sneering response that you’ve understood the issue:
The point is that Homo sapiens were the result of this evolutionary process. Try saying that to your petri dish and see what happens. If it is your position (like Conway Morris) that you’d get Homo sapiens from that experiment, then you’re firmly in what I called the Nomological strategy. Convergence is a pretty remarkable phenomenon, and lots of Christians have seized on it as a kind of biological fine tuning. But to claim humans were inevitable (the subtitle to Conway Morris’s book), seems as though it may have been over-reaching. Also, this strategy does nothing to answer the more general issue of divine action, and in fact seems to push toward deism (“God front-loaded the laws of biology” sounds a lot like “God wound up the mechanical clock” and then just watched it go). So this strategy needs to be supplemented with something else.
Wow… I did not know that it had its own acronym!: NIODA!!!
But I’m still not quite clear why NIODA is intrinsically a peril. Can you explain this part to me?
As I mentioned in my prior posting, there will always be a Christian continuum where a Christian has the legitimate opportunity to render God’s interaction with the Universe as mostly super-natural (aka, “miraculous”, or “not subject to scientific analysis”, and the like)…
rendering God’s interaction with the Universe as “mostly natural” or “mostly lawful”.
The BioLogos mission statement recognizes both ends of this spectrum/continuum. And there is precious little guidance in the Bible for definitively marking the places where one interpretation is superior to another.
For example, we are all quick to assume that creating Adam from dust is obviously super-natural… but, who can say if someone won’t invent a machine (like the one depicted below) that can make a human out of the right kind of dust!
This entire discourse was a theological one all the way, I have no illusions with regards to that. I am a scientist after all and I know the difference. Theology and philosophy are always lacking in utility compared to scientific explanations. That should to be taken for granted. It was my suggestion in the other thread that we should even abandon the idea that religion is really about explanations at all, especially for the natural world.
Scientists are not reductionist simply because they explore the composite element of causality. Avoiding reductionism does not require one to turn a blind eye, but only to recognize that the whole is more than its parts. There is Aristotles 4 causes approach that simply looks at things from all of the angles: effective (time-ordered), final (intentionality), material (composite), formal (emergent). When someone is theoretical physicist (as I am) you cannot blame them for looking at the composite causal connection because if there is no opening in the causal network then it is impossible for them to see how theism (rather than Deism) is even viable.
Thanks for the mention of NIODA and Bob Russel, I will look into it in order to compare notes.
I wasn’t comparing you to a two-year old or even refuting a query about how God does things, but only your fixed plan of repeating your question endlessly – which you have to admit means you are presupposing that no explanation will ever satisfy (to the admittedly low standards of theological explanations), which is not reasonable. Unless you are the one confusing theology with science from the other direction.
I was being facetious because your comment struck me as a little funny and so I was suggesting that you needed to make your suggestion more obviously magical like, “why couldn’t God have just made Adam out dust in a day,” instead of mixing it with the scientific explanation in way that failed to make your point. After all, I quite agree with your point, that if one is going to resort to divine magic explanations and an appeal to “God can do anything” then in for a penny you might as well be in for a pound.
Which I did with quantum physics, which is everywhere and all the time. But then that is taken care of by your predisposition to reject all explanations no matter what. The only thing more lame than that in my opinion is an insistence on clinging to the medieval appeal to mystery which just the mindless “Goddidit” explanation in another form. I am not buying the non-overlapping magisteria mentality which doesn’t allow science to inform your religious thinking, just so you can keep one foot firmly planted in the dark ages as if there were any merit in that period of history whatsoever. That is a stubborn conservatism which does not appeal to me at all.