Biological Clocks and God’s Good Creation

Our very own @JulieR wrote a piece that is released today! Encourage you to check it out.

For everything there is a season and an internal clock (or two) to keep track of them. Biological clocks can be found in bacteria, insects, birds and even humans.

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The magic word is biological. Natural. Why would God need to intervene in protein evolution?

I can’t put my finger on it but I feel we have this conception of nature that is completely separate and distinct from God. Is that the case or is it a category error on our part? Is stirring something while it is cooking intervening? or is it simply cooking? Why do we imagine nature and the natural world as completely distinct from God?

Nature stirs itself. Whether it is instantiated in God or no. Stirring stinks. Stirring is second rate. Inadequate. If You can stir proteins you can heal necrotizing fasciitis. Stirring is an insult to injury.

This might be a time to recall skeptical theism if we think we’re so rational.

…and have made all the correct presuppositions.

If it’s instantiated in God it makes as much sense to me to say God is stirring it as it does to say nature is stirring itself.

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I don’t see how that can make sense. Unless instantiation = stirring.

That is the difference between theism and pan(en)theism. I have suggested that non-theists are all too likely to experience God in terms of natural law. It is pretty much what Einstein meant when He used the word “God.” But the Christian/theist understanding is of a God who created the universe and its natural laws – and I certainly think God had very good reasons for creating them as He did.

What difference does it make?

  1. The theist understanding implies that we can seek God’s reasons for creating them as He did while the pantheist understanding does not.
  2. It means there is a distinction between what God wants and what happens in nature. The laws of nature God created can serve a divine purpose without God actually wanting people to suffer and die from hurricanes and viruses. God can certainly hope that we will find a way to protect ourselves from these things.

There is less distinction between ourselves and nature than there is between God and nature. God is the creator and we are part of the natural world He created.

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Panentheism is different than pantheism. Klax’s post just gives me deism vibes that I don’t accept. I also think using Occam’s Razor to remove God from the universe or all explanations is absurd. Why must it be natural explanation vs God? Why can’t the natural explanation simply be God?

Do we really know enough or have any solid data that the universe exists completely external to God or that it is somehow grounded in His being?

Both views raise questions in my eyes. Did he go to the wprld building store and get some parts when he made our universe? Can there actually be anything external and independent of an Omni-God?

But this is generally why I avoid philosophy now. Lots of questions with little payoff.

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Klax’s vibes are all over the place, and I have been a vocal opponent of Occam’s Razor. Science goes with the explanation the fits the evidence no matter how complicated it is. AND when we have more than one theory which equally fits the evidence then we keep both theories as alternate ways of tackling problems. Ocaam’s razor is nothing but facile philosophical rhetoric having NOTHING to do with real science!

That is like asking why it must be the rules of chess versus football. It is because chess isn’t football – plain and simple. In the same way science is not theology and God is theology NOT science.

But what about reality? Well that is more of a question for philosophy than science. Science is more about what the measurable evidence tells us – whether that gives us a good picture of reality is an interesting philosophical question.

That question only makes sense in theology. Theology is a matter of religious traditions and scriptural texts not objective evidence. In the Christian tradition and Biblical text, God CREATED the world – God is NOT the world. That is the whole point of Genesis chapter one.

Nor did he give commands to the emptiness to create things beyond His comprehension and ability – or go to pottery school to learn how to shape mud into people. Those are metaphors NOT instructions on how to create the universe and living things.

People avoid that which they do not understand the value of. I mean… I can sympathize… like everyone else there are things in this world I have a difficult time seeing the value of. But I try not to confuse my own internal state with external reality – the value I see (or don’t see) in things is not an objective physical property of those things.

Nature gives no theism vibes. If it did I’d be delighted to accept them. Adding God to the absurd universe or all explanations (i.e. life, mind, the multiverse; eternal nature) is unnecessarily absurd. It’s not natural explanation vs God. It’s natural explanation. God is not natural. Natural is not teleological.

If God exists then nothing is external to Him. Apart from other Gods. How would He know that there aren’t? We don’t need any data whatsoever to know that. What we also know is that He is utterly superfluous.

You don’t ask the right questions.

One place in science that comes to mind for where Occam’s Razor can be useful is mathematical modeling: a relatively simple-to-compute good match is more likely than a function which passes through every point perfectly and vibrates all over the place. Occam’s Razor can be quite easily applied to the wrong things (like the ones you cited), or over-valued (as giving certainties rather than likelihoods) but it can be useful in certain situations.

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We are indeed more likely to use the theory for the particular problem which is easier to calculate. But I have never heard Occam’s razor stated in that way.

Like I said… science is about what the evidence shows and reality is left to the philosophers. Thus when two theories match the evidence equally well, then we have no reason not to keep both in our toolbox to use whichever is easier for the particular problem we are dealing with.

In fact… even when they don’t fit the evidence equally well we still often keep them around for particular problems. Thus we still teach Newtonian gravity, because it is easier to use than general relativity for many problems.

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Parsimony certainly applies to unimaginably strange nature. Why imagine anything stranger?

I believe your football/chess analogy falls victim to assuming nature is not ground in God’s being or synonymous with the ordered nature of God. We know football and chess are two different sports. We don’t know (at least I don’t) the entire ground of our being (aka “nature”) is distinct from an omni-God. We just know God is more than the sum total of the parts we define, explore and model “as in a mirror dimly lit.”

I am questioning the very assumptions of classical theism that the universe is completely external and distinct from God. It might float many theological boats but we simply do not possess enough information to definitively address this issue. It has positives and negatives just as panentheism does. Claiming “nature stirs itself” as Klax did to me is synonymous with nature is not dependent on and upheld by God in every instant and location. That is objectionable to me and not something I take for granted.

This is opinion. I have a contrary one. Nature gives me plenty of theism vibes. Look at a newborn baby, a sunrise or the nighttime sky. Hell, I look at my future wife (5 weeks to go) and I can’t but think she is a gift (or blessing) from God. Even evil in the world simultaneously makes me question and accept God at the same time. What is worse? A world (worldview) with temporary senseless evil or a world (worldview) with eternal senseless evil and ultimately bleak nothingness? No reprieve for anyone who has suffered. No justice for those perpetrating torture. Atheism may be true but that examined life is harsh and hardly worth living intellectually. Its a cold, dark and empty universe without God. We can wax poetic to the contrary all we want with hollow and empty platitudes about loving others and making the best of it but I can see through the smoke. No worldview outside theism makes sense to me. And nothing ultimately matters if theism is not true.

Then that means everything happens within the ground or being of God and it makes no sense to pit “natural explanation” vs “God did it.” They are the same thing. If God originally had all the power, in creating us He presumably had to surrender over a degree of his own power if we have volition and actually choice.

Vinnie

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Incorrect. No such assumption is made in knowing the definition of the human activities of science and theology. Your speculations about God are theological speculations and have absolutely nothing to do with what the objective evidence tells us.

Likewise, we know science and theology are two different sports as well – two different human activities.

We do know that the theological tradition of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam is that nature is a creation of God and thus distinct from God. The pan(en)theist ideas of God not being distinct from God are nothing new… far from it. Many in both pagan religion and naturalistic ways of thinking have promoted this idea.

here are a few from the Wikipedia list of which I have been familiar with

  • Heraclitus (c. 535 BCE–c. 475 BCE), pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom. From the lonely life he led, and still more from the riddling nature of his philosophy and his contempt for humankind in general, he was called “The Obscure” and the “Weeping Philosopher”.[4]
  • The Stoics (founded early 3rd century BCE) are often considered pantheists for their belief that it is virtuous to maintain a will (called prohairesis ) that is in accord with nature and for arguing that physical conceptions are adequate to explain the entire cosmos.[5]
  • Baruch Spinoza (1632–1677), Jewish-Dutch philosopher, has been called the “prophet”[10] and “prince”[11] of pantheism.
  • George Berkeley (1685–1753), an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called “immaterialism” (later referred to as “subjective idealism” by others).
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism.[13]
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century.[21]
  • Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), American author, poet, philosopher, freemason, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, development critic, surveyor, historian, and leading transcendentalist.[25][26]
  • Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910), Russian writer, philosophical essayist and pacifist.[29]
  • Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), the Serbian American inventor believed in aether (opposite essentially of gravity) being the source of all existence and energy, sometimes referred to as prana.[33]
  • Albert Einstein (1879–1955), German theoretical physicist, one of the most prolific intellects in human history, identified with Spinoza’s God and called his own views on God “pantheistic”.[40][41] Einstein held a wavering view on pantheism and at times did not endorse it completely, making the statement in 1930, “I do not know if I can define myself as a pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds.” Instead, Einstein also frequently spoke of a more Cosmic Spirituality, a view where religion and science are partnered. Einstein rejected atheism.[42]
  • Michio Kaku (1947–), American theoretical physicist and science communicator.[57]
  • Elon Musk (1971–), entrepreneur and business magnate.[63]

If we include panentheism then this adds a few more I am familiar with…

I also know that I am not a pan(en)theist. In this I am very much in line with theism and the Christian tradition of a (trans)personal who create the universe intentionally for good reasons and thus we may seek to understand those reasons. The problem with pan(en)theism is that one can only think of reasons for the universe being the way it is by imposing them upon God Himself and thus making God very much more of a philosophical construct of the human mind.

It is a scientific fact that self-organizing processes are everywhere in nature, demonstrably the product of mathematically defined laws with the possibility of a little free will, and equating such with actions of God reduces God to something mindless and mechanical and annihilates the living free will of others. That is objectionable to me, and the idea that God must uphold his creation makes Him an incompetent, like a carpenter who has to support his tables and chairs so they don’t fall over. The Biblical passage about God upholding creation means something quite different, that God is a creator of living things like a shepherd and thus guides his creation protectively and correctively in order to keep it to his purpose. This is because a self-organizing universe and living creatures are not mechanical things which He can just wind up and watch like in Deism but one which He made for an interactive relationship so that life and history is a thing we write together.

That theology and science have different methods and levels of certitude in regards to finding agreeable propositions that are testable by everyone, is not in dispute. You are missing the point. There is no objective evidence for or against classical theism vs panentheism. Just because the method of scientists and theologians differ does not mean God must be external to nature. That is the assumption hidden in your comments that I don’t agree with. It may be true but I find it to be an assumption. I have seen no evidence God exists completely outside nature which exists external to him. Klax seems to think this is impossible, You seem to find it possible.

Later tradition yes. An interpretation of Genesis 1:1 where God uses pre-existing materials is just as viable and preferred by many exegetes. Not to mention most of the Bible was polytheistic. It started off with God existing with a sea of actual competitors. We no longer believe this but I would hardly claim that as the “tradition of Christianity and Judaism.” Its the one we now agree with and nothing more. Though Christianity started in a time when Jews were fiercely monotheistic so that may define it better.

Also, again, I distinguish between pantheism and panentheism. I don’t subscribe to pantheism but do think panentheism has some merit (along with numerous problems).

Its not equating an atom with God, its affirming God is the ground of all being and that by definition, per some philosophers, nothing can truly be external and fully independent from an omni-being. Whether it can or can’t be is something there is no evidence for one way or the other and no amount of defining science or theology will change that. We just don’t know. Your carpenter analogy is skewed in my view. God doesn’t need to support the table. God is the reason the table exists and stands the way it does. We quantify and explain things using gravity and structural dynamics. None of that precludes God as the ground of all being.

Vinnie

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All opinion isn’t equal. Mine is based entirely on observing nature. I used to get theism vibes all the time, just like King David. That’s entirely natural. I still get vibes. They’re just as worth it without God. Without any meaning whatsoever. I helplessly love my wife and am glad of it. Grateful. I don’t need a God to be grateful to. Congratulations for five weeks time. Being theist doesn’t make us feel anything good better. All evil is temporary. We die. Until then, we must be kind. What’s bleak about that? All of us suffer without reprieve until we’re reprieved in death, we all lose our loved ones if we don’t die first. Those perpetrating torture, the ruling class, the socially unjust, the helplessly privileged elite, us, all die. One does not have to react harshly to life’s harshness. Life is only worth living intellectually staring all of that in the face. It’s up to us to be warmth, light, filling for others: to give what we want. But you see through my hollow and empty platitudes about loving others and making the best of it, my smoke. I’m really bitter and twisted. A guy took my picture this afternoon as I cleaned the street. Came up, shook my hand. Said how I was known in the community. I mean, WOW! But I despised him of course.

Posted this elsewhere just this morning,

As I was litter picking at a hostel opposite the church I now administer as well as caretake, yesterday, a head popped out of an upper window and its owner said that he was concerned for my safety and threw me down a carrier bag of still wrapped hi-vis garments. We had a very positive interaction, I was very grateful, made the right we’re all in this together noises, and will wear the jacket at least and he was very grateful for the litter picking, as are truly many others. I explained I was with the church and he said he felt he needed some church in his life. I was greatly inspired and encouraged him to come. I feel so proud to be part of the church being a good neighbour in the most culturally diverse neighbourhood in the UK. You’ve heard of street corner evangelism, street pastors, you’ve now heard of litter picking evangelism. By an atheist. My being formally introduced to the church happens this Sunday (moved from last) and I’ll attend at least quarterly. Putin permitting.

I’m obviously deluded or worse fooling everyone. Tee Hee! God, I hate them all.

Anything matters if you think, feel it does. As Viktor Frankl proved.

When you’ve got an explanation, as full, complete an explanation as you’ll ever get, of the infinite complexity, the ineffable strangeness of nature, then sure, add your desire to it. Believe your desire. Whatever gets you through the day. But if you have to denigrate those who can’t do that, that is to be pitied.

The only theoretical possibility in nature, of nature, that is unnatural, is nature. That it could not exist without God grounding it. Nothing about it requires or even suggests that.

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We need more Logostherapy, less logotherapy. He gives his adoptive siblings lasting purpose. It’s important to remain childlike in a lot of respects.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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