Laws of science and theological understanding of Theistic Evolution

I have noted that TEs on this site invoke laws of science as the way God has created, or guided the Universe. I am unsure what this (or similar statements) mean within either theological or scientific context.

A Google search provides statements on scientific law, typically: “A scientific law is a statement or mathematical equation that describes or predicts a natural phenomenon. It does not explain why or how a phenomenon occurs. Another name for a scientific law is a law of nature or law of science. All scientific laws are based on empirical evidence and the scientific method. In science, an assertion can be disproven, but never proven, so it’s possible for a scientific law to be revised or disproven by future experiments. In contrast, a mathematical theorem or identity is proven to be true.”

A discussion on this forum on scientific laws and how these are theologically understood by Christians on God as the Creator of heave and earth, particularly as it is believed by theistic evolutionists, would be of considerable interest. My response to the assertion that God acts or guides in this way, would be that TEs may believe there is an intrinsic aspect to the Universe that ensures the Universe unfolds (or evolves) in accordance with the Darwinian view, particularly as expounded by atheists. If this is correct, the scientific laws as discussed by the scientific community would be incorrect.

What do you think?

The scientific laws work the same whether a person is a Christian or otherwise. The theological understanding ‘just’ needs to be that God is limited neither by time nor space and that he can intervene undetectably in his sovereignty to accomplish his purposes through providence, the ‘fortuitous’ timing and placing of events.

I have given multiple examples in my tenure here of which I expect you have seen at least some. Regarding evolution specifically, my nephrectomy account deals with the timing and placing of DNA mutations, among several other things

For me it’s simply an aspect of the faith. There is no evidence for it. Just point blank, it’s faith. The science is the same regardless. The difference is that atheists think there is no god and Christians do. How does god interact? Don’t know. How did god interact? Don’t know. What was god doing 40 billion years ago well before the universe was here? Don’t know. For me it’s not important how god may or may not have been involved in what’s all happened because it’s not verifiable or testable.

It’s curious to me that though you have personally experienced God’s providential timing and placing intervening in your life that you cannot grant him that degree of sovereignty throughout the history of the cosmos.

I understand what you are saying. My question(s) may interest (TE) theistic evolutionists (and this forum is populated by these) who have presented comments that indicate God may work through laws of science (thus evolution is compared to gravity, and so on), and this may provide a basis for TE. Working through anything (in this case laws of science) implies there is something there - something intrinsic to the objects of science. I am questioning such an outlook.

As noted in the quote, a scientific law is a statement made by scientists to deal with natural phenomena. I ask how this would apply to God?

As I understand this, we begin with a faith-based statement that God created everything, and everything follows from this. Scientists simply study the creation and cannot claim anything else. Atheists begin from a different position, but their study of natural phenomena is the same.

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The “laws of science”, natural laws, are intrinsic to the cosmos and which God has instituted.

This is what the LORD says: If I have not established my covenant with the day and the night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth…
Jeremiah 33:25

It doesn’t directly involve universal physical constants – only indirectly through physics and chemistry, so I wouldn’t put it that way. But my education in the biological sciences is fairly minimal – maybe Steve @glipsnort might weigh in on the characterization since he is well acquainted with physics and biology (that is understatement ; - ). Maybe, though – where there’s matter there’s gravity, where there’s life there’s evolution.

What is intrinsic “to the objects of science”, namely physical existence, is addressed by Hebrews 1:2-3:

…his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

It wouldn’t? Physical existence, to simplify to the extreme, is material for God to work with as he sees fit. A supernatural miracle (that’s not necessarily redundant) is one in which God temporarily overrides natural law. Another kind of miracle is one in which he does not break any natural laws, but providentially (and supernaturally) orchestrates the timing and placing and maybe the degree, the amplitude, of natural events, including those involving people.

The various translation of Jer 33:25 indicate fixed patterns, which appear more in keeping with reproducibility observed in the physical sciences:

King James Bible
Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth;

New King James Version
“Thus says the LORD: ‘If My covenant is not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth,

New American Standard Bible
This is what the LORD says: ‘If My covenant for day and night does not continue, and I have not established the fixed patterns of heaven and earth,

NASB 1995
“Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established,

NASB 1977
“Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established,

This is a little of the subject, but miracles do not, in the sense that I view science regularities, as breaking any laws. They are, however, not part of the patterns we humans observe.

If we accept that the universe is God’s creation, then it follows that all phenomena are subject to God’s will. However, I am more interested in exploring the reasons that some regard scientific statements as requiring God to do anything extraordinary as far as nature is concerned. Obviously, if we observe something that is out of the ordinary (non-reproducible) we would note this and question the phenomenon. This however, is a human response and only that.

Do you have an example? (In other words, I don’t know what you’re talking about – it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve run across. ; - )

If we say “overrides natural law”, or breaks some sort of law He established, then I regard this as doing something extraordinary - I think we can take this to the extreme by saying God breaks His laws. I cannot see the logic or sense in such outlooks.

It’s not like the natural laws apply to him. I don’t have a very clever analogy…try this: Cars are meant to have wheels and tires – it’s a law of ‘automotive nature’. But that law can be broken by an external influence, let’s say the manufacturer’s shop, and they remove a tire. It’s ‘supernatural’ to the car’s nature, but is the manufacturer breaking its own law? Not really – it’s a law that pertains to the vehicle, not the manufacturer.

Sure. That’s pretty much the definition of a miracle.

I’m simply see no scientific evidence for a creator in any aspect of the natural world. In this type of discussion I think it’s important to highlight that there are two choices basically.

God working in a way that the scientific process can point to and say this is something being supernaturally affected and there is no natural mechanism or explanation for it. It’s concrete evidence.

Or that God is working in a way that’s undetectable to the scientific method. That we believe he’s active in it, but it’s in a way that is just simply not provable and we don’t know really what it is and so on just that we believe by faith, he’s active in it. This goes the same for the part you quoted as well Dale. If you read through all my discussion I’ll say that it ultimately came down to faith. That even though I 100% believe it was God involved, I can’t say how just that I believe it. Even though it’s still possibly it was just a coincidence, I don’t think so.

I think God is very active in his creation. I think God is there doing something even while an antelope is having its stomach ripped open , I think somehow God is there in that moment with both the lion and the antelope in a way similar to how martyrs claim the holt spirit is with them as they are in pain and dying. But in none of these cases can it be proven.

I think there’s some ambiguity here about what kind of ‘scientific law’ is being discussed. A particular rule named ‘law’ is usually a simple statement about an observed regularity that does not attempt to explain the phenomenon – think Ohm’s Law, for example. A scientific theory, by contrast, usually tries to explain observed regularities in terms of some more basic or simpler set of entities.

‘The laws of nature’ and similar formulations, on the other hand, refer to the entire complex set of patterns that characterize natural phenomena. Science, then, is an attempt to systematically describe those laws and particular theories are models designed to help us grasp and understand them. Presumably TEs are talking about this meaning of ‘law’ when they talk about God working through natural laws. What kind of ontological status they are assigning to those laws I don’t know; I suspect it varies. As a scientist, I’m concerned with creating good models for physical phenomena. I’m pretty agnostic the fundamental nature of natural law and its relationship to the Creator, and I’m skeptical about our ability to know much about either.

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It’s what can be known about the world, and what cannot that settles one question and leaves another most uncomfortably unanswered.

What if the universe begins in the present and not the past?

I recall from my electronic studies Ohm’s Law works the same regardless of the direction of current flow. And I read an article recently that said the physics works the same when the video of a stone falling into the water is played in reverse.

That depends on what’s in the circuit. A resistor works the same way (to a good approximation) regardless of the direction of the current. A diode does not.

The laws of physics operate very, very nearly the same backwards and forwards in time. This was long suspected because of so-called CP violation combined with the CPT theorem (look it up – it’s complicated). Poking around, however, I see that time reversal asymmetry was demonstrated directly in 2012 by . . . the experiment I used to work on. Cool. I guess my code kept working.


I should have been more specific. The math works the same, diodes included, whether you use conventional theory or electron flow theory.

Whether the particles or holes are seen to flow is how I remember it being explained.

  • Color me clueless and confused.
    • If I start watching a 10-minute video at 12:00 pm and immediately replay it in reverse, will my clock say 12:00 pm again, or 12:20 pm when the video ends?
  • I’ll take my answer off the air.

I just wanted to note that “natural law” is a theology/philosophy term and “laws of nature” is a science term and sometimes people conflate them or use them incorrectly. But if you look them up, you will see they are different. “Natural theology,” which interests some theists, especially ID folks, deals with “natural law” not the “laws of nature.”

GJDS, what you left out is the Logos, or the rational side of the universe. Most science begins with an idea, which is then confirmed or rejected by appropriate experiments and/or observations.

This should be true, if we accept a rational universe regardless of our faith viewpoint. Darwin based his theory of evolution the theory of the Survival of the Fittest, which he adapted from Malthus. Dawkins called his theory the Selfish Gene.

Both of these theories are based on conflict and thus consistent with atheism. On the other hand, the experience and the science of theology and philosophy is based on harmony and cooperation.

Interestingly enough survival of the fittest has not been verified by science. Fit has been defined as bearing children who also bear offspring, so it is a tautology. On the other hand, ecology has introduced the concept of symbiosis. Ecology has been enormously successfully in explaining why and how plants and animals have been able to flourish by adapting to their environment.

In my humble opinion ecological evolution is better than survival of the fittest for one and one re4ason only. It is better science based of facts and not ideology.