Atheistic Meteorology or Divine Rain?

(system) #1
Why would we take exception with attempts to discover and describe the natural processes by which God creates organisms, but not object to the study of the natural processes whereby he sends rain?
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

God's use of natural laws & the Western scientific tradition

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(Mervin Bitikofer) #3

I too appreciated this article – perhaps with even fewer reservations than Eddie. Since this might be an ‘in-house’ discussion without the bonus of the author’s immediate presence, I’ll at least offer my own response though I’m sure Eddie wants to hear from more than just me.

[quote=“Eddie, post:2, topic:4446”]
When rain will be produced, and when it will not be produced, is determined by the working-out of natural laws. Is that the case for evolution? [/quote]

I think the easy answer, ‘yes’, could be given to this Eddie, and without much dispute from anybody provided you are willing to, say, allow that natural selection is one of those natural laws. I anticipate that this then will become an immediately dissatisfying (or at least incomplete) response – and still incomplete by allowing in the standard partners of variation/mutation/ecological adaptation. You will probably insist that, unlike with rainstorms, our understanding of life origins and evolution are vastly less complete; and I would be surprised if anybody (in sober state of mind) would disagree with that. But I think Godfrey’s point still stands: why should anybody object to seemingly ‘closed-loop’ naturalist explanations in this (should they be forthcoming) when they have already demonstrated that theology tolerates them quite well in meteorology?

And if they aren’t forthcoming – well, that’s the persistence of a vastly more complicated set of questions at work. If they are eventually forthcoming … so much the better to have the yet more detailed understanding of how God does something. You want to know the extent of that divine control. Is this a bit like asking the extent of divine control of a rainstorm? Are we disturbed with arguments over whether God engineered the precise landing location of each drop, vs. being okay with … he was just happy to see to it that farmer Joe got his requested inch and a half of rain?

I still think that the fixation on this will remain ultimately inaccessible to our observation or analysis. You may well be doomed to never receive the answer, which nobody can give in any case, about the details of how God typically mediates His will through natural processes. Most of us are okay as a matter of faith to just accept that He does and leave it at that; as this author demonstrated by calling attention to our wide acceptance (in the case of meteorology) of both mediated mechanisms and God’s sovereignty.


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(Roger A. Sawtelle) #5

From a scientific perspective, rain formation is ateleological. That is, the mechanisms that cause it to rain do not have the foresight to know that that is what they will accomplish. These forces of nature are not deliberately working towards a specific outcome, and yet highly distinctive and conspicuously non-random precipitation patterns develop. - See more at:


This is a terrible definition of teleology. Clearly nature does not know in advance what it will produce, but rain is necessary for life. No rain means no plants, which means no food and no life for animals. In this was rain is teleological and so is rain formation.

Jesus said that God the Father makes the rain fall upon the just and the unjust, so be like God the Father and love the just and the unjust. Thus the point or telos of rainfall according to Jesus is that it does not discriminate against or for others. This is a very important point that we all need to learn.

Evolution is also teleological in that it produces diversity of life to fit into the diversity of ecological niches that God has produced through nature. Life and physical nature work together like hand in glove to create an environment suitable for humans. This is God’s teleology.

Telos refers to having a purpose or a goal, not knowing what that goal or purpose is.

After I wrote the above something else occurred to me and that is The Anthropic Principle theory is strong evidence that creation has a telos which is humanity. The Anthropic Principle is based on 20/20 hindsight.

It says that humans and other life could not develop without certain specific conditions being present, and these conditions are so numerous and specific that they could not be present in our universe by accident. Therefore life in general and human life in specific are part of the basic existence for our universe.

It does not mean that humanity was per se predetermined, but the conditions are favorable for our existence and this is not a coincidence, but built into the structure of the universe.

What is says is that like the clouds were created to produce rain, the universe was created to produce life in general and intelligent human life in particular. This mind you is a scientific theory and reflects the convergence of science and theology in our day if we theologians allow this to happen.


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(Larry Bunce) #7

This discussion has made me think of how much we would test our understanding of evolution’s purpose or lack of it by finding intelligent life on another planet. If the intelligent life form looked anything like we do, we would have to conclude that humans were pre-determined from the beginning of life.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #8


As I have been trying to tell you and others, we need a different evolutionary process to produce the human species, different from the one envisioned by Charles Darwin. This does not mean that it cannot be called evolutionary, but it works differently from the survival of the fittest based solely on genetic variation.

YHWH created a physical universe a long time go. But YHWH’s telos was not just to create a magnificent place, but to create persons in YHWH’s own image. YHWH chose to create these persons by creating life on planet earth and have the planet and life coevolve or co-develope so that this planet would be filled with wonderful forms of life headed by YHWH’s viceroy created in YHWH’s own image by YHWH’s means of ecological evolution.

God works through integrated process and processes. God did not just empower Israel to become God’s Covenant People, God also empowered the Greeks to develop a great culture including philosophy, and the Romans to conquer the world and develop a great legal system and technology, so the world was ready when it was the kairos for the Messiah, Jesus the Logos, to come.


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(Roger A. Sawtelle) #10


My problem with this essay which has an author who is not available for discussion and BioLogos has not made anyone available for discussion either, is that he assumes that a “natural process” such as the process of making rain is without telos, therefore it follows that another natural process, evolution, is without telos.

The problem is that the author as a scientist is accepting Monod’s definition of telos, which is false. The easiest way to prove something is to define a term your way, so that it means what you want it to mean. Scientism through Monod has defined “telos,” meaning and purpose, out of existence in nature. The sad result of this is most scientists has accepted this definition of telos.

My question right now is, Has BioLogos accepted this definition? As I have pointed out before most of the people in BioLogos are scientists, like @DeborahHaarsma and are inclined to accept the scientific point of view and maybe so are we all because we live in a scientific culture.

In any case the key to this problem is teleology as you and Jon have said, but we cannot discuss teleology with scientists unless we agree as to what is the definition of teleology, which is now clear from this essay and what we see in the book by Futuyma is very different from our theological view.

I have tried to get BioLogos to challenge Monod in the past, but they has not responded. I think that it is time to try again, because they are publishing material like this essay that agrees with Monod and the anti-telos point of view.

(Brad Kramer) #11

@Eddie @Mervin_Bitikofer @Relates FYI the author has decided not to comment here. We can’t force all our authors to do so, especially in this case where it was a reprint.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #12


What is keeping you and others from making a comment?

(Brad Kramer) #13


You’re reading an awful lot into the article that simply isn’t there. The author was not intending to deal with the question of telos in nature in this article, and I have no idea what he thinks about that subject.

And I’ve left my own opinion on the perennial “Does God guide evolution?” question elsewhere, and don’t have time to repeat it here.


(Roger A. Sawtelle) #14

Put it another way, the question of origins is only as theological as is the origin of rain. - See more at:


Thank you for your response. What the author says is that science says that the origin of rain has no telos, according to a false “scientific” definition of telos. The origin of humans is another scientific question that needs to be determined in the same way, no telos, so the problem is solved, that is, no telos for humans also.

So you have NOMA or as Dawkins & Co. would say, No God.

I will see if I can find your opinion of God’s guidance of evolution.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #15


The best I can find is the topic Does God guide evolution? that you created, but without your comment.

(Jon) #16


> The Bible states clearly that it was God who sent rain, at least in ancient times, on the land of Palestine. In other words, the Bible attributes to the action of God something that we currently understand to be the result of natural processes. This being the case, why would it be wrong to consider the possibility that biological diversity, which the Bible also attributes to the action of God, could similarly have come about as a result of naturally operating processes? - See more at: says Brad.

Some biological diversity certainly does come about by what we see as natural processes, such as mutations, extinctions. The discussion is not about how we think God makes it rain, or changes the the natural processes in imperciptible ways to make it rain, or has predestined and predesigned everything to withhold rain for three years at the time of Elijah. The point is that we do not deny that God created the impacts of the drought and the subsequent rain after Elijah destroyed the 450 prophets.

The issue for Genesis reinterp is not that God could not use natural processes. The issue is that the natural processes imagined by evolution result in something different than what is indicated. That creation was not necessarily “good”, that death and destruction existed long before the fall, that one man was not responsible for the origin of disobedience to God, that God never created a garden of Eden at all, that the flood was not global, etc., etc.

So this issue is a side issue, not pertinent or significant to the main discussion.


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The issue of this column is whether God can use natural processes or not. Obviously he can. But the main issue is what God did, not exactly how he did it. When evolutionists suggest that God used evolution to create man, they cannot do so, without denying that God created man separately, from dust. They have great difficulty with sin and death before the fall of man. They have great difficulty with what obedience to God really means, since they have great difficulty with a garden of Eden, with temptation, with any specific command of God, and with a separation of man from God.

This is why, in the story of the three year drought at the time of Elijah, it makes no difference to the story whether God instigated or predestined naturalistic means for the drought and the end of the drought, but does make a difference whether the drought actually happened, and whether it actually ended with a huge rain storm.

Hugh Ross et al understand this, and thus try to meld evolution with the real story. YEC understand this, and thus point out that evidence for unrestricted evolution is missing or faulty. Biologos understands this (although less fully) and tries to explain genesis in ethereal, metaphorical, or allegorical terms. All perspectives have some problems, but the biologos approach creates problems in understanding the rest of scripture, not just Genesis.


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