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


(Jon) #1

Another thread asked the question “Where is God in Nature?”. This article is related to that question. It describes not only how the Bible describes God’s use of natural laws to order the universe and bring to pass His will, but also how this fundamental principle was introduced by Christians into the Western scientific tradition, and was used as the basis of successful science.

Understanding how Scripture describes God acting through natural laws and complex systems which He has ordained, helps us understand how God can be both visible (at the macro level), and invisible (at the micro level), in nature. This is obviously relevant to the question of how God is revealed in evolution.

Natural Laws and Science in the Judaeo-Christian Tradition

Abstract:

An orderly universe operating according to divinely established laws, is a constant theme throughout Judaeo-Christian cosmological commentary. A well-ordered cosmos, with multiple natural cycles operating independently of God’s direct intervention, was introduced in the Hebrew Scriptures and inherited by early Christians, who used it as the basis of their approach to study of the natural world. The scientific value of this paradigm became apparent during the medieval era, during which time it stimulated and guided discovery of natural laws, and was used to suppress superstition and eradicate false views of the cosmos. This work laid the foundations of the modern scientific method.


Why the opposition to ID theory?
(Henry Stoddard) #2

@Jonathan_Burke

Jon. I really like the paper. Your article is very fine. I am glad you have given us the opportunity to read it. You should be proud of it.

Charles


(Jon) #3

Thanks Charles, I’m really glad you enjoyed it.


(George Brooks) #4

@Jonathan_Burke,

I wonder if you are comfortable with the terminology of “FRONT-LOADING” when proposing a way for God, as Creator, to accomplish every minutia of God’s plan, as the universe unrolls itself… but still not prohibiting the possibility of God making specific unlawful interventions as well - - if someone’s belief requires such interventions…

Thoughts?


(Jon) #5

@gbrooks9

Yes I’m comfortable with the concept of front-loading incorporated with evolution (and other natural processes). This is not a new idea. In fact the Anglican clergyman Robert Chambers proposed an evolutionary creationism model involving God’s front-loading, at least 12 years before Darwin’s book came out. Darwin cited Chambers and complimented him for clearing the way for his own work on the subject (though he did take issue with Chambers’ errors in biology). However I would not take front-loading as far as the “Intelligent Design” proponents, who claim it is evidence against evolution (it isn’t).


(George Brooks) #6

I’m actually not too familiar with this approach. Could you offer details?

It was my thought that ID proponents want to allow for real time NON-LAWFUL interventions by God … to get an evolutionary process make the necessary JUMPS for those processes that are not capable of providing for certain evolutionary events on their own.

I would describe these instances as EXCEPTIONS to front-loading… not a necessary part of front loading.

George


(Jon) #7

The ID front-loading argument is described here. See an example by an ID proponent here.


(George Brooks) #8

AH! This is NOT the concept to which I have applied the term “front-loaded”!

The link takes us to:

“In order to reconcile the ID hypothesis with the fact that billions of years ago only unicellular organisms existed, the ID advocates have invented the idea of “front loading” which is that ALL the features of every single organism that exists today were loaded into the original single-celled organism by the Intelligent Designer billions of years ago.”

I certainly don’t believe this view.

I can see I need to use a different phrase from “Front-loaded”. By this term I HAVE been meaning the idea that the Creator god put everything exactly as he wanted at the moment of creation … and then set off a lawful chain reaction of natural order.

This is not intended to be a “watch-maker” scenario … because in Real Time, God still communicates with his creations (prayer and revelation) - - and performs whatever interventions are required as well.

Maybe I could use the phrase:

“Lawful Pre-Set” of the Universe?


(Jon) #9

Yes that’s not the way I am applying “front-loading” either. I understand it the way you describe. The term Chambers coined was “law of creation”, which is pretty close to your “Lawful Pre-Set”.


(George Brooks) #10

@Eddie,

Shall we drop the use of the label “Front-Loaded” in order to avoid confusion with an ID use of the phrase?

What do you think of Chambers’ terminology?


(Jon) #11

Yes probably best to drop that term. Chambers’ terminology was pretty good, though it’s specific to what he’s talking about. It has a lot of similarity with the view you and I hold, however. Chambers observed that God had very obviously given the creation the capacity to “create” (all living organisms reproduce), and used that as part of his argument for a creation which could create new things which had never existed previously. Which is pretty sensible.


(George Brooks) #12

A very spiritual insight … all before Darwin and the mechanics of Evolution made it possible to know how it might be done!


(George Brooks) #13

Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation “. . . is an 1844 work of speculative natural history and philosophy by Robert Chambers. Published anonymously in England, it brought together various ideas of stellar evolution with the progressive transmutation of species in an accessible narrative which tied together numerous scientific theories of the age.”

" ‘Vestiges’ was initially well received by polite Victorian society and became an international bestseller, but its unorthodox themes contradicted the natural theology fashionable at the time and were reviled by clergymen – and subsequently by scientists who readily found fault with its amateurish deficiencies. The ideas in the book were favoured by Radicals, but its presentation remained popular with a much wider public. Prince Albert read it aloud to Queen Victoria in 1845. Vestiges caused a shift in popular opinion which – Charles Darwin believed – prepared the public mind for the scientific theories of evolution by natural selection which followed from the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859."


#14

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(George Brooks) #15

@Eddie,

Is the cabal at work on this system as well?: RationalWiki.org?

"The link takes us to:

“In order to reconcile the ID hypothesis with the fact that billions of years ago only unicellular organisms existed, the ID advocates have invented the idea of “front loading” which is that ALL the features of every single organism that exists today were loaded into the original single-celled organism by the Intelligent Designer billions of years ago.”

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Intelligent_design#Front_Loading


#16

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(George Brooks) #17

@Eddie,

If you and I agreed on things more generally, I would rely on your opinions. But since you and I notoriously disagree on just about everything, I find your comments on what ID proponents believe or don’t believe … less than reliable.


#18

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(GJDS) #19

@Jonathan_Burke

While I agree with the thrust of your statement regarding the impact of a Christian outlook of a law-like nature has had on western science, I am inclined to view statements as “God’s use of natural laws…” as anachronistic, in the light of the thinking of modern science. I think that God sustains the Creation (sometimes stated as the energies from God), and we are able to comprehend various aspects of this by systematic studies of nature, and deducing regularities that we have traditionally regarded as laws of science. This is mainly due to the privileged place of humanity in nature, in which Nature is rendered in some way, intelligently accessible to human reason. The theological implications of this are obvious, and perhaps may remove some notion of conflict between faith and science.


(Jon) #20

@Eddie

I’ve read most of the major ID works, and I’m unaware of any ID proponent who claim that front-loading is “evidence against evolution.”

Please read the link I gave to the Uncommon Descent website (one of the major ID sites). That link will take you directly an ID argument using front-loading as evidence against evolution.

Just a side-note: I notice one of your sources regarding ID was Wikipedia. You may or may not know that all the articles on ID at Wikipedia are controlled by a cabal of anti-ID writers who work pretty much 24/7 to delete any edits that are pro-ID or even try to be fair or neutral about ID.

Actually the link I gave was to RationalWiki, which is run and edited predominantly by skeptics and atheists. So I gave two links on front-loading. One from an ID website promoting the ID perspective, arguing that front-loading disproves evolution, and one from the skeptical perspective arguing against the claim that front-loading disproves evolution. That’s a balanced presentation; argument and counter-argument.