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God, chance and purpose? Dr. Kelly James Clark Calvin College.

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1 God, chance and purpose? Dr. Kelly James Clark Calvin College

2 blind, purposeless chance “By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.” --Douglas Futuyma “It is evident that all the objective phenomena of the history of life can be explained by purely naturalistic or materialistic factors. Man is the result of a purposeless and natural process that did not have him in mind.” --G. G. Simpson

3 Issues Does the presence of chance preclude purpose? Can the presence of chance in evolution be reconciled with the concept of divine providence? Most theists believe that God intended not only the creation of humans but also the birth of this or that human including themselves. God’s purpose was not only for the creation of humanity but also for the existence of Luis Oliveira, Xu Xiangdong, Abbas Yazdani, and Steve Matheson. If mutations are random, how could God have foreknown, let alone intended, the creation of human beings like you and me (let alone you and me)?

4 Biological Randomness The pattern of mutations in a given population is not affected by the “needs” of those organisms Mutations are “blind” to the good of the organism Genetic changes are not causally connected to evolutionary “needs” “Random mutation” doesn't imply that the process of mutation is indeterminate or unknowable The biological conception of randomness is consistent with the claim that mutations are determined by prior conditions

5 Random = unpredictable A random process is one in which an individual outcome cannot be predicted with certainty If mutations are unpredictable, how could God have known which mutations would have occurred for natural selection to act upon? A process is unpredictable in principle if no knower could accurately predict the outcome of the process A process is unpredictable in practice if no method exists for accurately predicting the results of the process but if such a method is practically possible

6 Unpredictability in practice Relative to knowers and time (and technology) Epistemic notion of predictability and unpredictability Shouldn’t prove a problem for God

7 Is reality random? As far as physicists can tell, certain quantum phenomena are unpredictable in principle “as far as physicists can tell” The One True Physical Theory May be human limitation: random number generator Evolutionary reasons for thinking we have only a thin grasp of reality: like our access to the light spectrum

8 Unpredictability in principle Even if one knew all of the relevant initial conditions and all of the relevant physical laws, one could never predict the outcome If a process is unpredictable in principle, then not even God could predict the results of that process

9 God as Fortune-teller Can’t be future vision Whatever God sees must be the case If God sees the future w/o Steve Matheson, then God can’t bring it about that Steve Matheson exists Maybe God sees “the future” of all possible worlds and then creates that world whose “future” includes Luis Oliveira, Xu Xiangdong, Abbas Yazdani, and Steve Matheson

10 God as Chess Master God might “program in” all necessary responses to unpredictable outcomes God doesn’t respond, God presponds If mutation a occurs, X will happen to get Steve Matheson, and if mutation b occurs, Y will happen to get Steve Matheson

11 God as Riverboat Gambler Convergent probabilities ‘Haphazard happenings at one level may lead to lawfulness at a higher level. A single toss of a coin is a highly uncertain matter yet the collective tossing of a million coins is a highly predictable event.’ DJ Bartholomew ‘If there is a method so simple and elegant, it is surely the method God would use. There is then no need for him to be concerned with happenings at the individual level. All that matters is their behaviour in the aggregate.’ Problem of the single case

12 God as Santa Claus God may not have known exactly which creatures would evolve, but he might have known what types of creatures would arise Given initial conditions and natural laws, God may have known that evolution would produce rational and free beings God could have known that these creatures could become human persons Although God didn’t know when this would happen or what the creatures would look like, God inserted souls into rational and free beings

13 Timeless Eternity God is outside of time; everything is now for God God could not have predicted because there is no pre- for God (and no after) Suppose God couldn’t have predicted the existence of Steve Matheson given complete knowledge of the initial conditions of the universe and all natural laws No problem: God knows everything with certainty, now (God knows the initial conditions, and that they don’t imply Steve Matheson ’s existence, and that Steve Matheson exists)

14 God, Chance and Purpose Fortune Teller Riverboat Gambler Chess Master Santa Claus Timeless Eternity


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