Fine Tuning of the Universe vs. Irreducible Complexity


(Marlene Crowe) #1

After reading Francis S Collins, “The Language of God”, I found my eyes were open to the possibility of evolution as God’s process. I do believe there is a possibility for evolution to be valid. I am not willing to argue against it, as I was before. It should be said also that I may not have been as receptive to his book, but that I had previously read the books by, Hugh Ross “Navigating Genesis” and Behe, Dembski, Meyer “Science and Evidence for Design…” Meyer “Signature in the Cell” and Hawking “A Brief History of Time” …These helped me say goodbye to my old belief of young earth. What I do wonder is, just where is it that those that follow Biologos, say that it is ok to invoke God having a hand in creation? Is there a specific time? Myself: I do not fear calling it what it is… and have told my atheist friends, when accused of it, that “yes” I have invoked the God of the gaps, because I have no choice. When they ask why, I honestly tell them that my Lord has worked out a miracle upon my heart, and so I have my irrevocable evidence for God. Him I will never deny, and so I must insert Him into everything discovered by science. The atheists I know do honestly accept that. Is it true that those on this site following Bioslogos say God created, yet are cautious and refrain from saying when and where?


(Brandon ) #2

Marlene,

I am new to the Biologos discussion forum so I do not claim to represent their views concerning the creation of life on earth. However I too have ventured along the same pathway that you have concerning some of the material that you read from the intelligent design camp. I found myself very attracted because of my Christian beliefs to the ID perspective on the creation of life. I’ve read Behe, Meyer, and Dembski extensively because they have been at the forefront of the ID movement of recent. I sincerely appreciate the research, time and effort that they’ve put into their work on ID. However, when we try to look at the evidence for what it is and not through the presuppositions that we all carry with us the evidence for the evolution of life on this planet looks very compelling. Francis Collins, Ken Miller, Karl Giberson, Dennis Lamoureux, Dennis Venema who are all great Christian scientists (not to mention the rest of the scientific community at large) overwhelmingly support the theory of evolution and present good empirical evidence for it. So, as one who tries to diligently and critically follow the evidence wherever it may lead (although this can be difficult because of the lenses through which we view the world) I have found myself in the same position as you are concerning the question of, “Did God intervene in any specific way in order to bring about life on the earth and if so how?” I’ll try to keep my comments short because I’m sure there are others who will want to respond from the Biologos perspective but I will try to give one thought to this general question.

One way to view God’s activity within the natural world is what some people have called (for lack of a better term) a “front-loaded” view of the creation of life. What I mean by that is that God initially as the great engineer sets up specific constants and laws in the beginning that will govern the operation and development of the universe. In this view of creation it’s not necessary for God to intervene in “specific” ways because the trajectory that He has set the universe upon already has the information necessary to eventually produce life. Now I’m not saying that he doesn’t or can’t intervene but that it’s not necessary from a creation standpoint because God like a great computer engineer has given His universe an algorithm that will eventually bring about life.

This is just one way in which someone can view the process of evolution and see it as compatible with the notion that the God is the creator of life and gives meaning and purpose to his creatures through this process. Hope this is a start.


(Marlene Crowe) #3

Thank-you very much Brandon,
For taking the time, and for your interpretation, which is indeed a great start here. Also, I am going to look up some books written by the scientists you have listed here. Currently I am reading an second Collin’s book, and after that hope to delve into some others. Unfortunately I do not have all day long to read lol
Take care


(Marlene Crowe) #4

From further reading, I can’t help get the idea that pushing God’s hand in creating to the “fine tuning” anthropic principle etc., and morality argument, could actually be another God of the gaps theory? Is it not somewhat like the DI arguments of complexity? (Eventually science will explain it, so no longer valid) I believe in God, and think evolution is probably true, based on evidence, but I believe also that God’s hand was very active throughout all of His natural creation, and I am wondering if this may be one way, or the only way to see God in creation, without invoking the gaps argument simultaneously at some present or future time? I believe also that DI is important and a step in the right direction in aiding Christian’s to understand science and fit it into what they know about God via the Bible. I also feel that Biologos is another positive step in that direction, and I am so so thankful for both, for how the scientists contributing their work has opened and broadened my vision. (as their work must have for countless others) But it seems to me that Christians could easily be called revisionists of the grandest proportion, if we keep changing our ideas about how and when God is involved in creating, so that it fits old and new discoveries in science. (Inviting God, where we feel He may safely fit, as opposed to just knowing He is, was and always will be.) Any thoughts?


(Brad Kramer) #5

Marlene,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments here. You are asking all the right questions. A couple of thoughts:

  1. Christians are already “revisionists”, no matter what they believe about evolution and the age of the earth. The Church has changed its position on the shape of the earth, its position in the solar system, and many, many other scientific issues. The trend is always toward explaining things with natural causes rather than direct supernatural intervention (for instance, it was widely believed until at least the medieval period that supernatural forces like angels moved the planets around their orbits). So if we are defining God and the supernatural by how much science can explain, then the trend looks very bad for religion. But if we start with the biblical picture of God, then if we see the universe as governed by orderly, regular laws and patterns, it makes sense. To paraphrase Charles Coulson, if we see something that science can’t explain, we should try to be better scientists (and he was a strong Christian). So if we put all our faith in what science can’t explain, we are forgetting that modern science is basically a Christian invention. Of course, it’s more complex than that, but this is a start.

  2. The argument about altruism/morality is controversial, even among BioLogos scholars. And the “fine-tuning” theory is also controversial. Neither of those form the core of the evolutionary creation perspective.

  3. You are assuming that the Bible shows us a God who intervenes frequently in natural processes, especially in creation (this is what DI says, roughly). I don’t think the Bible (especially in the early chapters of Genesis) says anything of the sort. I’d be happy to follow up, if you have additional questions.

Thanks again for your comments.


(Christy Hemphill) #6

Could someone fix the typo in the post title so it would show up in a search for irreducible complexity…


(Marlene Crowe) #7

Thank-you Brad,
Yes true enough, I see your point, Christians are revisionists, as well as all of mankind, I guess.

I am keenly interested to hear your views on the first couple chapters of Genesis, and if you could explain how it is that you understand God’s hand in creation, and how connected He was/is to His natural creation as it happened, (is still happening) ?

At this point, I tend to believe we are always, over time, simply discovering God’s science, as they are His scientific laws in motion that we are learning about etc. I don’t necessarily believe His science means He is “hands off”. I’m not convinced he wrote all the formulas, initiated things at the big bang or some such thing, then just sat back to watch the big ball rolling.
I do not believe is that He intervened (frequently) to go against the natural principles set,
but more to say that He was and is intimate with His creation, and His people, remaining with His creation throughout, and so knows every last detail about all things. So it is in this way that I believe He is there and completely responsible in every aspect of His creation.


(Christy Hemphill) #8

On a theological, not “scientific” note…I have read a lot of N. T. Wright books (Surprised by Hope is the main one I’m thinking of now) that conceive of the Kingdom of Heaven as a parallel dimension overlapping our natural world. Throughout history the reality that exists in the dimension of God’s Kingdom of Heaven has “broken through” to our natural world, and when we pray for God’s kingdom to come, we are praying that our natural world will more and more closely parallel God’s reality, that it will “break through” to greater and greater degrees. As Christians we place our hope in the idea that someday the natural world and the Kingdom of Heaven will be fully united in the New Creation, and the natural order as we know it will be swallowed up in the miracle of the final resurrection. This has been a helpful paradigm for me in trying to reconcile the idea of a natural world that is operating and developing according to scientific law (not constant divine intervention) with the idea of a God who has an eschatological plan for his natural creation, who is sovereign, but not deterministic, and who intervenes in and subverts the natural order to answer prayer and do miracles.


(Brad Kramer) #9

Marlene, that’s quite a set of questions! I think you are right to be dissatisfied with either a “hands-off” theology where God winds up the world and lets it go, or one where he constantly “fixing” his own creation. I think the best option is that God is involved intimately with his creation in a “sustaining” and guiding role, but not in a coercive way. For more on that, read this great blog series: http://biologos.org/blog/series/belief-in-god-in-a-world-explained-by-science


(Brad Kramer) #10

As it relates to Genesis 1, I think it’s completely OK to say, “I have no idea what exactly the hand of God looks like in creation, but I do know that he alone created the universe, and he created it the way he wanted.” In fact, I think that’s the only sane answer.


(Marlene Crowe) #11

Thank-you Christy. I completely agree with the idea of a parallel spiritual dimension, or different realms that are usually not visible to the natural perception of man. It makes perfect sense, and yet another aspect is the presence of the Holy Spirit who is here on earth now living in the Christian, as a result of Christ’s work on the cross. I also believe 100% without a doubt and with all my heart that there are times when God does allow us to break through into His realm or dimension spiritually, in order to help us, show us something, or heal us of some type of emotional trauma etc. Back to science and God, I actually have not thought of it as constant divine intervention in science, but it is His science, so in that way He is directing it, and also He is a constant presence here with us, and with His world. I guess maybe I am thinking in this way because I feel Him here all the time, in my very being, and can’t imagine Him not being here with us all the time.


(Marlene Crowe) #12

Hello Brad, thank-you for directing me to Jim Stump’s series. He had me in the first two paragraphs, and especially his words: " I have had an encounter with the risen Christ - the Logos - which has rendered me almost incapable of unbelief." I know, from my own experience, exactly where he is coming from there. He eloquently speaks of Christ’s amazing all encompassing love, the central essence of who He is and why we experience our loyalty and love for Him in return. I just love reading of other people’s personal encounters with the living Christ…which brings me to a very huge frustration of mine. Our inability to use our personal and very real experiences with Christ to help others see who He is. A feeling of helplessness when speaking with those dear people who do not believe. They have so many reasons not to believe that really in many ways do make sense, and seem, or should I say are valid. Frustration with the wall the divides us. Frustration with the fact that they pretty much would not believe our experiences if we told them, and so they look at us and are confounded, and wait for us to give the evidence and reason why we believe, while we look at them and wonder how we ever realistically could. How could we when what happens is a spiritual miracle that occurs in each and every Christian’s heart, that begins with the moment we first believe, and never stops happening as we journey through our lives. A leap of faith that has to happen, which is then followed by a slow and increased understanding of spiritual things beginning only after that leap. A gradual never-ending learning process beginning with a miracle, that seems almost fatally tied together with the atheist scientists extreme difficulty in reconciling practical science and God.
Jim’s view on inserting God in the gaps is exactly spot on in my opinion. His blog series on this is great, makes perfect sense, and is a voice of reason among the noise.


(Brad Kramer) #13

@Mincaesar I’m so happy you enjoyed it! I also appreciate Jim’s wisdom and clarity on these issues. I think he strikes a great balance between faith and reason.


#14

Brad, I thought I would add a thought. You said, “I think that’s the only sane answer.” and I would like to take you to task gently on this statement, which seems a bit absolutist to me. I would counter and say that opposing perspectives on Genesis can both be sane, even if one view may be incorrect.

I’m not sure what you mean by God “fixing” his own creation, does that assume that the creation is not “good”? I don’t believe I heard that expression before… And one other confusion to me is what does it mean that God is coercive with creation? I understand that he gives men the ability to make choices, even though often we make the wrong choices (which is why there is sin), but I’m not sure is a natural law created by God thought to be coercive? Is the law of gravity coercive… or the speed of light… or the power of hunger… or the heat of the sun? Just not sure what you are getting at.


(Patrick ) #15

Glad to see that you are more accepting of the knowledge obtained in scientific pursuits. That will benefit you enormously in your life. Regarding the natural world, our current understanding is that at the most fundamental level, all processes are random processes in time. All particles are quantum mechanical, popping into and out of existence spontaneously. The universe expanding outwardly with gases compressing to make stars that make atoms. Stars explode that send atoms to rocks that forms planets and then molecules form complex things like DNA. All random, irreversible, unpredictable, chaotic, constantly changing. If that is a real, honest, and best we have yet description of nature, why isn’t that good enough for you?