How exactly do you see the origin of life? Do you think it just popped into existence, came from natural causes, or something else?

The way I envision a chemical reaction is many molecules chaotically zipping around and randomly running into one another. Which molecules react with which is chance, at least in the way I use the word. It’s kind of like a bingo ball or lotto ball contraption:


The evidence is consistent with chance when defined in a methodological and practical sense which is why I accept the concept. I also don’t know how the first life came about. You don’t need to know how life originated in order to lack a belief in gods.

Science faces different kinds of limitations and one them is the demonstrable fact revealed by science that there are no hidden variables determining the result of some of the simplest interactions. The role of chance cannot be dismissed as an effect of complexity or lack of knowledge. Einstein was wrong about that. It is a difficult pill that physicists have had to swallow. There is no causal closure in the laws of nature.

Thus science leaves an open door to a number of possibilities it cannot exclude such as free will and the involvement of God in our affairs. To be sure none of that is proved and you can choose to believe that it is all chance. I choose to believe in all three: God, free will, AND chance. The effort to put all events down to divine retribution doesn’t look reasonable to me. It looks far far more reasonable to me that God would simply leaving some things to chance because it frankly makes life more interesting. And more importantly, like in the story of Job, reading too much into things, like some kind of divine judgement, is more likely to be just wrong.

Ultimately I expect people will move on from this preoccupation with first causes and leave that up to empirical research alone. There is absolutely no reason I can think of why the ground of our experiential being should require a cosmic watch maker with omni-everything powers. Perhaps that is felt to be necessary in order validate the Bible and imbue its stories with the necessary importance to knit together a community. I’ve never placed that much emphasis on community building so I’m not moved in that direction.

Impossible. The road behind us is a part of the road ahead. That is like saying we should dismiss all of our memories and leave the past to the recordings we have on tape and DVD. Adding the color of subjectivity to the future cannot be isolated from coloring in the past as well. It is all a part of the same 4 dimensional picture. There is after all no solidity in the future to hold onto so we build our bridge from the side from which we came. To be sure the distant past can look as uncertain and variable as the future, but even if we must project our own order on these things it is still a part of finding our way.

Indeed. I cannot help thinking your choice of words here even had in mind my campaign for a switch to God as shepherd. And you know that I have frequently voiced a need for caution about taking these omni-abilities to incoherent extremes.

No it is more than that. It is more about the need for transcendence. The error of putting to much faith in the status quo and how thing actually are is abundantly obvious in numerous historical examples. Thus we have a need to make a clear distinction between the everyday and the ultimate.

LOL Psychologist rather than sociologist, eh?

But clearly the principle of community building has to be built into the individual and to overlook this is to misrepresent the individual to some degree.

So what natural entities aren’t? Or require unnatural causes?

I’m cool with incarnation and the orthodox work of the Holy Ghost. But free will?! What’s that? Does God have it?

I checked and the search function works. So if you really want to know about something you can search the relevant terms such as “free will,” “causal closure,” “causality,” or “determinism.” And so there is no need to drag a discussion off topic, nor to put up with tactics implying that questions mean that there is something wrong. We know very well in science that the opposite is the case. The results of scientific inquiry always introduces more questions than are answered because these are about things which are real enough to have tangible or measurable consequences rather than something so mysterious and unexplainable there is no point in asking any questions. So the fact that scientific answers introduce more questions just make them that much more worthwhile than answers like… “Goddidit” or “it is a mystery.”

Though if you still have questions about such things after doing such a search, and the old topics are closed, you can always open a new thread with the questions you have about such things – preferably with some thought put into explaining you questions and challenges, so people have some understanding of what it is that you would like answered. And that would also open up the discussion for others to address those questions also.

I have no need to do any searching, thank you. Why do you claim that ‘science cannot exclude such as free will’ if you can’t demonstrate it in any meaningful way?

Your visualization of balls hitting each other is an example of simplification to the point that it makes a discussion meaningless. Reactions can take place in gaseous, liquid, solid, and mixtures of phases. Molecular bonds are broken and others created, and energy barriers must be crossed. Intermediate species are formed in reaction routes, and the nature of such intermediates can vary for different reactions, The reaction rates for specific reactions can be determined and conventional routes often include frequencies, temperatures and energy changes (exothermic, endothermic).

I must add that my description is a simplification and we can add molecular modelling including ab initio QM - you may notice that chance is not a term in this brief description. Nor is God invoked in these studies.

After science has quantified the relevant chemistry, we may ponder any implications @mitchellmckain , be they philosophical, theological, or secular.

We should avoid inane generalizations as these do not advance good discussions. The term chance is most often used in discussions of everyday activities such as gambling. It may also be invoked in very specific instances of science, but then it is highly qualified.

There can never be any empirical research to establish first causes, but that isn’t necessary. Simple rational thinking does the job. Scientists tend to be too savant for that. Agreed on the absolutely no reason, with your rationality. Aye, the Bible is true therefore God is the ground of being and let’s huddle together for the warmth that brings. Rather than be warm to others.

Good point. I should have said prior causes.

The same analogy applies to all phases of matter. Any matter that is above 0 K is moving about.

All of that happens with molecules buzzing about. What you describe is the system as a whole, and it is the sum of all single reactions. As per the topic, this would certain apply to questions about the origin of life which would have happened at the level of chemistry if abiogenesis is true.

The findings of science is pretty solidly against this antiquated model of matter as things in particular places moving around at particular speeds, since those two things are actually incompatible measurements. Thus this picture is no more valid than that of an electron as a spinning top. So I think GJDS is making a valid objection.

It is just as valid to go with C.S. Lewis’ popular idea that all of reality is composed of vibrations at different frequencies extended to angelic entities beyond our perception. A favorite of mine is to visualize the universe as a 11 dimensional space-time fabric with vibrational modes (like in string theory) accounting for all the elementary particles, thus reducing all the laws of nature to geometry and wave mechanics. Though I have that other complementary picture of point particles getting lost in a sea of virtual particles. …all just visualizations to help our minds picture what is going on… but ultimately failing to capture the reality or even the mathematical equations we use to describe it.

One thing is for certainly is that most of our equations are ultimately based on statistical descriptions rather anything mechanically exact. In particle physics even those single reactions are described by summing over a collection of Feynmann diagrams for all the possibilities rather than nailing them down to anything which “actually” happened. It seems that reality at the ground level remains in a fuzzy state of possibilities unless we insist on imposing our macroscopic singularity of reality on them with measurements.

On the contrary, the role of chance is ubiquitous in the physical sciences – even unavoidable. The findings of science that there are no hidden variables make it impossible to remove it no matter how closely you look at the supposed components of things. But that is precisely where the lack of causal closure is found in the scientific worldview. We are forced to accept that things happen which cannot be put down to mathematical equations and initial conditions alone, and that even Laplace’s demon isn’t able to predict everything after all. At least that is the case without extending reality to something beyond what is demonstrable or measurable. That is why we have this choice of beliefs in divine involvement, free will, and chance, to which I suppose we should add a Bohm-like picture of a holistic mechanistic reality beyond what we can measure that somehow rescues determinism (but I refuse to call anything beyond what is measurable by the phrase “physical determinism”).

So I would cross measurable physical determinism off the list of possibilities:

  • total indeterminism, in which it is all just chance
  • non-measurable “physical” determinism (like Bohm insisting that natural law is all there is)
  • divine determinism, popular in theology by such terms as “absolute predestination”
  • mental determinism or metaphysical solipsism (which overemphasizes free will)
  • mixed view which accept the role of all these causal factors: natural law, divine involvement, free will, and chance.

Obviously, I think the mixed view is best. And for a more narrow discussion of any one of these I insist on searching for the topic discussed elsewhere or going to another thread with a discussion open to everyone.

A molecule of oxygen can not be moving at a particular speed? I don’t think I am understanding what you are saying. As far as I am aware, the kinetic theory of gases is still the predominant view in physics, isn’t it?

That’s great and all, but the main point I was trying to make is the two molecules have to be next to each other in order to react.

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Yes the kinetic theory of gases was quite at the forefront of my thinking when composing my response to that post. It is a model which works very well. But I would not exclude a wave picture of things working equally well. The exploration of a wave theory of gases or rather a wave theory of heat has been explored a little bit.

Yes… that works even when we go with the picture which does not give exact positions to (smaller) molecules. There is still a probability distribution for their position and if they don’t overlap then they are not next to each other.

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I also don’t have an opinion on abiogenesis. I’m interested in it but nothing seems that solid of a answer yet. I do believe that taxonomical clades though are not just merely arbitrary words. They are classes based in science. They use to be based solely on things like field botany and ect… and as time goes and we get better with genetics there are some alterations.

It is difficult to discuss these matters in a meaningful way - chance and molecules buzzing around. Perhaps this may make it clear - it is possible to mix oxygen and hydrogen in a container and no reaction would occur as these molecules buzz everywhere. No chance. Yet introduce a spark to the mixture and bang, it reacts very rapidly - again, no chance. I make this point regarding straightforward chemistry and @mitchellmckain not extending the discussion to fundamentals of physics.

You can even take the chance out of rolling dice if you weigh the dice badly enough.

Your example presumes conditions equal to weighing the dice. Reduce the strength of the spark and/or concentrations of oxygen and hydrogen and yes ignition becomes a matter of chance.

I don’t get it - you are saying if we manipulate conditions that chance …?

Lets use another example - mix helium and nitrogen and they can buzz all the time, but spark or no spark, nothing happens; this is the chemistry… :smiley:

And I don’t get you not getting it. So maybe we are talking past each other. Perhaps you don’t see the relevance to something which I am not even aware you are trying to see where the relevance is.

This sort of result usually signals to me a need to trace back the conversation to the beginning.

The physicists (myself and T_aquaticus) reaction is to say of course there is chance in chemical reactions. But by seeking to get the same results from our written procedures, often what scientists do is eliminate the element of chance. In this way you could say science boils down to control. The scientist is in that sense not interested in what we cannot control and perhaps dismisses it with the word “chance.”

So it would seem the scientist has a choice when it comes to these things. The naturalist equates the scientific results with reality and so takes this dismissal as chance to be all there is. The theist on the other hand, can see this lack of causal (deterministic) closure represented by chance as an opening for a role for other things like free will or the divine. This is not to say that free will is necessarily or entirely non-physical in every sense, though it does seem to me that it violates the scientific premise of time-ordered causality and it is certainly more of a subjective experience. All that is objectively observable in either free will or divine involvement is the lack of causality in the pre-existing conditions.

“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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