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Children of a better god?

 I have been listening to a few lectures by Christians who are convinced that the standard models of evolution explain all of biology including life’s origin. They say that evolution also explains all of cosmology. For them, this gives them, the evolutionary creationists, “a better god” than any model that requires a lesser form of “interventionist god”.

 To quote loosely from a conversation between two of these good willed gentlemen.

 “If we think of the cosmos as a game of billiards. The ID proponents have their god taking in turns and using the cue. Chance and nature are given a turn, then god comes in and sinks a ball. Finally after a long game, the eight ball is sunk, and we have a conscious being, man, with whom god can have a relationship.”

 Then they ask the question; “What god is the better and the most clever god? Isn’t it a god who sets up the game, and uses the cue once at the very beginning, and does such a good shot, that without any further shots, the train of events is started in motion that results in all the balls being sequentially sunk. Finally, when the eight ball is sunk, god takes it (man) from the pocket, and tells us how much he loves us. A god like that is much cleverer, much more worthy of praise, than a god who needs to intervene over and over!”

This is a picture of cosmic front loading. I say that given the observed constraints of the universe we inhabit, ID theorists have shown that it is impossible, for any non interventionist agency, to front load even the origin of simple life, let alone subsequent development with any certain outcome. This is of course given the known science so far. ID opponents argue that we have enough science to say that these outcomes are not only possible but inevitable. We both have the same evidence.

I also say that it is even impossible, in this universe, to win a billiard game with a single shot. Given the friction of the table, and the differential velocities that would be required between different balls to be sunk in the correct order. Even if the very slim probability in a frictionless environment may allow it, in the real world it is impossible. Even a god could not win a billiard game in one stroke without using supernatural powers.

I wonder if it is OK to choose the best god I can think of. I wonder whether we may just have to accept the God who is called “I AM”, rather than being able to imagine the one we would like to exist.

Our views of what is possible in this given universe need to be constrained by known science. Cosmic front loading, if it exists, should be detectable and observable. If it is not, it is indistinguishable from intervention.

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29 Responses to Children of a better god?

  1. “I AM”?

    Where did you get that from, AU?

    Couldn’t have been Moses, right?

    Sorry, Moses cannot have had that revelation, because God does not intervene.

    It proves how superior God is that he never told Moses that he cared about the sufferings of the oppressed and was about to help them.

    No, the bio-entity Moses merely evolved with a brain glitch that produced certain iterations.

    That bio-entity could just as easily have glitched that God told it to go back and participate in the oppression. Thus do selfish genes have an edge.

    I hope all see where “Christian evolutionism” leads.

  2. They think they are arguing against ID?

  3. You write:

    I wonder if it is OK to choose the best god I can think of. I wonder whether we may just have to accept the God who is called “I AM”, rather than being able to imagine the one we would like to exist.

    If you can imagine a being greater than what you think is God, then God is not the greatest being possible. That means that God is contingent, which means that he is not a necessary being. God, then, is just another being in the universe rather than the Ground of Being. Such a “God” is not the self-existent one that Moses encountered at the burning bush.

    Our views of what is possible in this given universe need to be constrained by known science. Cosmic front loading, if it exists, should be detectable and observable. If it is not, it is indistinguishable from intervention.

    Why? Contingent being itself requires necessary being. That’s always true, and does not depend on the flux of changing scientific paradigms. The rule that “if it exists, it should be detectable and observable,” can’t be true, since the number 3 exists in the mind of God eternally and that cannot be detectable or observable. Consider also providence. The idea that God is the sovereign creator–that some flawed aspects of creation are part of his overall plan–cannot be observed or detected in a “scientific way.” The person who embraces providence, then, is not worried about things like the “problem of optimal design” or “junk DNA,” since, like evil itself, they are part of God’s providence.

  4. Is this how polytheism starts? I wonder if this mirrors historical events.

    For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:21-23

  5. Occasionally, a scientist discouraged by the consistent failure of theories purporting to explain some problem like the first appearance of life will suggest that perhaps supernatural creation is a tenable hypothesis in this one instance. Sophisticated naturalists instantly recoil with horror, because they know that there is no way to tell God when he has to stop. If God created the first organism, then how do we know he didn’t do the same thing to produce all those animal groups that appear so suddenly in the Cambrian rocks? Given the existence of a designer ready and willing to do the work, why should we suppose that random mutations and natural selection are responsible for such marvels of engineering as the eye and the wing? ~ Phillip Johnson

    I wonder if it is OK to choose the best god I can think of. I wonder whether we may just have to accept the God who is called “I AM”, rather than being able to imagine the one we would like to exist.

    My radar goes off anytime someone tells me they have a ‘higher view’ of God or (if they really want to impress) they add a possessive ‘my God’, ‘your God’. I think everyone should be content with a simple ‘I disagree’ and move on.

  6. The ID argument is that all the balls have been sunk and that is a pattern which requires intelligent design.

    It doesn’t matter one whit how it happened.

  7. I have been listening to a few lectures by Christians who are convinced that the standard models of evolution explain all of biology including life’s origin. They say that evolution also explains all of cosmology. For them, this gives them, the evolutionary creationists, “a better god” than any model that requires a lesser form of “interventionist god”.

    I’m not sure what these lectures are, but if these Christians believe that God foreknew and preordained the paths and results of evolution (and everything else, of course), they would be admitting that ‘the standard models’ don’t explain ‘everything’. In fact, they’d be radically incomplete as is – unless ‘God is, either directly or indirectly, guiding all of evolution’ is now part of some standard model.

    fbeckwith,

    If you can imagine a being greater than what you think is God, then God is not the greatest being possible.

    But not everything I claim is a ‘better God’ is, in fact, ‘better’. Right? Clearly it’s not as easy as saying ‘A God who didn’t die on the cross is better than a God who did. Oh look, Christians can’t really be worshipping God now’, can it?

    Granted, I get the feeling you were having fun more than trying to make a serious claim. If so, hope you don’t mind me having a little fun too.

  8. “I say that given the observed constraints of the universe we inhabit, ID theorists have shown that it is impossible, for any non interventionist agency, to front load even the origin of simple life, let alone subsequent development with any certain outcome.”

    ID theorist Behe seems to disagree:

    “Here’s an analogy to help think about [intelligent design]. Suppose in a small room you found a pool table, with all the pool balls held in one side pocket. Nothing much remarkable about that, you tell yourself. Now suppose you later discovered a videotape from an overhead camera, showing how the balls arrived in the pocket. As the tape begins, all the numbered pool balls are motionless, scattered on the table apparently at random. Then, in slow motion from one corner, the cue ball appears (you can’t see the cue stick or shooter — they’re off camera). The cue ball hits a numbered ball, then another, which hits several others. After bouncing around a short while, all the balls line up and roll neatly, one after another, in numerical order, into the side pocket.

    “Even though you didn’t see what happened before the start of the film or off-camera, you would be certain it was a trick shot. No random cue stroke, that. It was set up — designed. The shot must have taken into account not only general laws of physics (conservation of momentum, friction, and so forth) but special conditions (the size of the table and mass of balls) as well as minute details (the exact initial placement of the balls and angles of impact). Whoever set up the trick not only took care to select appropriate general conditions, including a smooth pool table, but also paid close attention to the smallest details necessary to make the trick work…

    “The pool table is our universe, and the consequence of all the balls in the side pocket is life on earth.

    “Some people who accept design arguments for physics, but not for biology, nurture an aesthetic preference that our universe should be self-contained, with no exceptions to physical laws after its inception. The prospect of the active, continuing involvement of a designer rubs them the wrong way…it offends their sensibilities.

    “But the assumption that design unavoidably requires ‘interference’ rests mostly on lack of imagination. There’s no reason that the extended fine-tuning view I am presenting here necessarily requires active meddling with nature… One simply has to envision that the agent who caused the universe was able to specify from the start not only laws, but much more.”

    Michael J. Behe, The Edge of Evolution (2007), pp. 205, 229-231.

  9. The whole problem with the TE argument is that it is a fallacy of analogy.

    It is using the “Artificer Analogy” as the standard. Who’s the better engineer? An engineer that can design a machine that that fix itself or an engineer that has to constantly fix what he made?

    But what happens if we change the analogy of God to creation to that of a musician and his instrument?

    Who would be a better musician, a musician that plays the instrument perpetually so that the notes form an endless masterpiece or a musician that played a single note on the instrument and then just stared at the instrument?

    Or even better: what would happen if we changed the analogy to that of a drama writer and his play? Even better: he’s not just the writer of the drama, he’s also the director and the main protagonist.

    Which would be better, a writer/director/main protagonist that was constantly doing all three duties at once forming the play of history that will be memorable for eternity or a writer/director/main protagonist that writes the first line, directs himself onstage, and says one line, “Let there be…” and walks offstage never to be heard from again?

    The problem with the Artificer Analogy is not that it’s wrong, it’s that it is only a partially correct analogy. The relationship of God to His creation is so much more than all of the analogies listed above.

  10. brokenarrow1298

    I like your analogy. You should put it here for future reference.

  11. I have a big problem with the idea of a completely front loaded universe.

    The problem is called Quantum Mechanics.

    For example consider the pool table analogy. Remember that according to QM, momentum and position are complementary variables. This means you can not specify the initial conditions without some error delta-x and delta-p such that

    delta-x*delta-p > h/2(pi)

    Now for large macro objects ( like billiard balls ) this is very small error in measurement. No matter, increase the area of the billiard table and add more balls.

    I have not worked out the mathematics (nor do I care to ) but my prediction is that with relatively small number of billiard ball like objects on even a 2 dimensional plane you soon find that you have to know the initial positions and momentums to greater accuracy than allowed by QM in order to make the shot.

    How much more with all the particles in the universe, in order to create life.

    Its not that God is not able to design a completely front loaded universe, its that the design he has chosen ( subjecting His objects to quantum mechanics ) disallows Him from creating it. The fact of quantum mechanics is God’s way of showing us he had to intervene.

  12. I think this article by Dr. Sheldon is fairly clear in exposing the fallacy of the aloof, front-loading, deistic god:

    The Front-loading Fiction – Dr. Robert Sheldon – 2009
    Excerpt: Historically, the argument for front-loading came from Laplacian determinism based on a Newtonian or mechanical universe–if one could control all the initial conditions, then the outcome was predetermined. First quantum mechanics, and then chaos-theory has basically destroyed it, since no amount of precision can control the outcome far in the future. (The exponential nature of the precision required to predetermine the outcome exceeds the information storage of the medium.),,, Even should God have infinite knowledge of the outcome of such a biological algorithm, the information regarding its outcome cannot be contained within the system itself.
    http://procrustes.blogtownhall.....tion.thtml

    As well I find it to be strange that people would claim that their god is so big that he can’t be known when in reality the correct way to look at it is to say ‘God is so infinitely big and powerful that His presence can’t help but to be known!’ Which is exactly what we find in the actions of quantum mechanics! i.e. not only did God create this universe from His highest transcendent realm, but almighty God also sustains, and enables each moment of this universe from His highest transcendent realm.

  13. “Its not that God is not able to design a completely front loaded universe, its that the design he has chosen ( subjecting His objects to quantum mechanics ) disallows Him from creating it. The fact of quantum mechanics is God’s way of showing us he had to intervene.”

    Supposing, however, that quantum mechanics is not a fact, that we were mistaken about it, as we have been about countless other scientific accounts of the universe. In that case, God was not showing us anything at all, since the entire “revelation” was based on a defunct scientific theory. And what’s more, you’ve taught people the wrong lesson about God and creation; you’ve taught them that rational warrant for belief in God depends on scientific theory rather than the nature of contingent being itself.

    This is why playing the “science proves God” game is a losing proposition. It plays right into the hands of the atheists, who, like you see little room for God. They have faith that those gaps will be closed. You are confident they will remain open and thus allow room for God. So, you wind up fighting each other over a sliver of metaphysical turf that tomorrow may be conscripted by unbelief.

    The question is not whether ID arguments work, rather, it’s whether they contribute anything to overturning materialism’s hegemony in certain sectors of the academic world. I don’t think they do, since the arguments accept much of that hegemony’s assumptions about the nature of science and what counts as knowledge.

  14. idnet -

    I’d like to offer a correction. ID has not shown that life requires intervention. What it has shown is that the laws of physics are insufficient. Behe’s view, for instance, is that not only the laws of physics, but also the configuration of matter, are required to be precise at the beginning in order for everything to work.

    The idea of Darwinism is that natural selection is doing all the work – that is, there was no design or pattern for life, but it merely took (and can take) whatever route is available to it.

    But instead, what ID’ers have shown (nay, what Darwinists have shown experimentally and ID’ists merely point out to be hiding in their closet), is that life requires extraordinary amounts of information, and adaptation likewise requires it. Selection doesn’t create it on its own, even with the help of randomized mutations.

    It’s like your computer. When you get a fresh computer, there are a number of programs installed on it. Those programs may have been installed by a single installation disk, or many. But no one in their right mind thinks that they arose via an unguided evolutionary process from arbitrary starting places.

  15. I think the difficulty with TE thinking is that they see a dichotomy between God and His creation. I think TEs missed the parts where God said He is in all things and where Paul understood that we breath, move and have our being in God. So using the word intervention betrays an misunderstanding of all of what God is actually doing.

    Has He intervened in human affairs? Yes, twice AFAIK. Does he intervene in nature in general? No, simply because He is there continuously, sustaining life. He has not left and jumped back in from time to time.

    Rather, Creation only exists and functions in Him, not outside of Himself. So nature does not operate independently of God. God has not made the universe like a wind up toy, cranking it up and then setting in down to run itself.

    A way of looking at it is if we see the Trinity as Force acting through Information and the simultaneous Emanation of that interaction, we see that Creation is an illusion of parts. It persists precisely because of the continuous and sustained activity of the Trinity.

    Actually, physics experiments seem to confirm this view, since we now know quantum particles are not things. There is no divisibility at the quantum level. So science is actually confirming what we have already understood through revelation and our own spiritual perceptions imbedded in us.

    True, this view may appear to be susceptible to charges of solipsism but I would reply that if we see ourselves as fish in a boundless ocean, we can understand that because we live in water and breath water, does not mean that we are water. What makes us different is that we are a permeable boundary within a permeable boundary within a boundless whole; separate but contingent.

  16. —fbeckwith: “And what’s more, you’ve taught people the wrong lesson about God and creation; you’ve taught them that rational warrant for belief in God depends on scientific theory rather than the nature of contingent being itself.”

    That is is like saying that science’s Big Bang theory will discourage thinkers from considering the rational argument for a first cause. In fact, good science confirms good philosophy. Truth is unified. There is no reason to fear any aspect of it.

    —”The question is not whether ID arguments work, rather, it’s whether they contribute anything to overturning materialism’s hegemony in certain sectors of the academic world. I don’t think they do, since the arguments accept much of that hegemony’s assumptions about the nature of science and what counts as knowledge.”

    I get it. ID scientists should not present empirical evidence for design as long as there is any danger that materialist Darwinists will sneer at them.

    On the other hand, Theistic Evolutionists should, without demanding any evidence at all, accept the Darwinistic fairy tale in order to make Christians seem more reasonable.

  17. This is why playing the “science proves God” game is a losing proposition. It plays right into the hands of the atheists, who, like you see little room for God. They have faith that those gaps will be closed. You are confident they will remain open and thus allow room for God. So, you wind up fighting each other over a sliver of metaphysical turf that tomorrow may be conscripted by unbelief.

    Mr. Beckwith,

    I dont’ think ID is about promoting a ‘science proves God’ theme. Rather it says God can be reached from many epistemic roads, and science is one of them, contrary to what atheists would have us believe.

    It seems in the last century or so that atheists have been camping out in ever increasing numbers in a house theists built and are now not only claiming homesteading rights but seek to evict the original tenants. ID is simply reasserting its claim and pressing the point that God is actually integral to doing quality science.

    Moreso, ID will help resurrect the pure intention of science as a means of knowing for its own sake, not simply as a utilitarian vehicle to satiate and sedate a confused and restless humanity.

  18. Intelligent design assumes that “intelligence” exists as a causal force apart from law and chance. That alone is a challenge to materialist orthodoxy.

  19. johnnyb

    “ID has not shown that life requires intervention. What it has shown is that the laws of physics are insufficient. Behe’s view, for instance, is that not only the laws of physics, but also the configuration of matter, are required to be precise at the beginning in order for everything to work.”

    No one has ever shown that with any specified initial conditions, life could arise. The universe we live in is the only one we know and the laws we have to describe it provide us with the only basis upon which to speculate about initial special conditions.

    If there are yet undiscovered complexity laws that create a downhill slope towards specified complexity, they are not yet known and will make the origin of the universe even more mysterious and a theory of everything even farther off than it is now.

  20. Mr. Beckwith,

    I agree with you that existence itself is sufficient to prove a causeless God, but I have long thought that science must eventually prove the spiritual aspect of existence, since it is reality, and science is the study of reality.

    Perhaps you could expound upon this:

    “I don’t think they do, since the arguments accept much of that hegemony’s assumptions about the nature of science and what counts as knowledge.”

    what do you think is/should be the nature of science and knowledge?

  21. Professor Beckwith (#13)

    You write:

    This is why playing the “science proves God” game is a losing proposition. It plays right into the hands of the atheists, who, like you see little room for God. They have faith that those gaps will be closed. You are confident they will remain open and thus allow room for God. So, you wind up fighting each other over a sliver of metaphysical turf that tomorrow may be conscripted by unbelief.

    When arguing with people about the existence of God, I find it’s helpful to start with questions they acknowledge as meaningful. Not everyone thinks the question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” is meaningful. “How should I know?” is the curt answer you are likely to get. Ditto for “Why do the laws of Nature keep working?” But if you ask people how they explain the complexity we find in Nature (and especially in living things), nearly everyone recognizes this as a genuine problem, which needs to be answered. Moreover, it’s regarded as a pressing problem, which needs to be answered NOW. High school science curricula are designed, in part, to address this question.

    ID will have performed a service to humanity if it can show people that the prescriptive information we find in living things is of a totally different kind from the Shannon information in a random string of letters, or for that matter the order we see in a snowflake. We can now see that life is built on the basis of instructions. Practically everyone can grasp that. It takes a metaphysician to recognize that laws of nature are also prescriptive in character; most people think they’re just “out there,” and it’s not easy to shake them out of their metaphysical complacency.

    I am not fighting atheists over a “sliver of metaphysical turf”; for what we see is that the “sliver” is widening every day, as scientists uncover deeper and deeper levels of complexity inside the cell. This is something Aquinas could not have anticipated, but had he known of it, I cannot believe that he would have advised apologists to keep such a beautiful via manifestor corked up like a genie in a bottle.

    Finally, there are many people here who agree with you that contingent being requires an explanation, and who have argued as much. If you want to reach people, I believe that you need a multi-pronged approach, highlighting the fact that at all levels, from its specified complexity to its sheer contingency, the universe is not self-explanatory.

  22. Dr. Torley you state:

    ‘for what we see is that the “sliver” is widening every day, as scientists uncover deeper and deeper levels of complexity inside the cell.’

    The ‘deeper levels of complexity’ being revealed as we learn more is something that is not expected from a Darwinian framework but is expected from a ID framework. Such as this ‘unexpected’ finding from a increasing of the resolution of the Fruit Fly genome:

    note:

    Most Detailed Annotation of Fruit-Fly Genome Points Way to Understanding All Organisms’ Genomes – December 2010
    Excerpt: In the past decade researchers have made astonishing progress in the rapid and accurate sequencing of genomes from all realms of life. Yet the listing of chemical base pairs has gotten far ahead of understanding how the information they contain becomes functional. Even the best-understood genomes conceal mysteries.,,, Celniker’s transcriptome group succeeded in exploring Drosophila RNAs at a level never achieved before. “From the RNAs we identified approximately one thousand new genes, both protein-coding and noncoding. These were previously missed because they are less well conserved, or were found in less-studied developmental stages and RNA populations. Thus they tend to be expressed at lower levels than known genes.” She adds, “We also found an order-of-magnitude increase in the ways that genes are spliced and edited to produce alternate forms of known proteins, thus significantly increasing the complexity of the proteome.” The proteome is the set of all proteins expressed by the genome.,,, But DNA is surprisingly versatile — coding sequences, known as exons, can be spliced together in different ways to produce more than one form of a protein. The researchers found almost 53,000 new or modified exons and almost 23,000 new splicing junctions, with 14,000 alternative ways of transcribing the genetic information. Despite the scrutiny to which the Drosophila genome has been subjected, the researchers found new or altered exons or splice forms in almost three-quarters of Drosophila’s previously annotated genes,,, Drosophila’s genome is divided among euchromatin, which contains many active genes, and heterochromatin, which — although it amounts to about a third of the genome — contains relatively few active genes. Thus the Drosophila chromatin group was surprised to discover that some regions of heterochromatin are almost as active in expression as euchromatin.,,,
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/re.....131131.htm

    Dr Torley you may find this this little article I just ran across interesting as well:

    The struggle for the soul of Adolf Eichmann
    http://creation.com/adolf-eichmann

  23. VJT:

    Excellent.

    My own thought is that we need to address worldviews coherently, on a cumulative case basis, starting from first principles of right reason.

    In that context, the contingency of the cosmos points to the need for an external cause. Its finely tuned balance at an operating point suitable for cell based life points to the root cause being a necessary being who is an intelligent and purposeful, powerful designer. The information-rich [not just capacity, but prescriptive and descriptively functional, meaningful information] design of life starting with the cell and on through its biodiversity points to that designer’s handiwork, whatever means used. The reality of credible mind and moral government then point to our reality as creatures that are morally governed by a Moral law tracing to its author. Similarly, that such a morally good creator God is good as to essential character points to the point that good is not separate form God, nor is it arbitrary.

    So, theism is a most reasonable view, and Judaeo-Christian biblical theism fits in with what is reasonable. Going beyond that, the historical underpinnings of the text in 1 Cor 15:1 – 11, the classic summary of the testimony of the C1 church tracing to 35 – 38 AD, within a decade of the event makes the death burial and resurrection of Jesus as attested by 500+ eyewitnesses a further decisive issue.

    In that context, the evidence of contingency and that of design are important, and stand on their own merits as scientific evidence, that can be explored, discussed and warranted scientifically. As opposed to metaphysical a prioris such as the too common imposition of Lewontinian style evolutionary materialism.

    GEM of TKI

  24. Hi bornagain77 and kairosfocus,

    Thanks for your support. I was blown away by the article on the fruitfly, bornagain77. I had no idea that its genome had so many layers of complexity. The article on Eichmann was intriguing, too. Creation.com has a number of interesting articles, and my recent post on ATP synthase was based on an article I read there.

    kairosfocus, I would completely agree with your emphasis on the importance of worldviews and more fundamentally, principles of right reason. In 2011, I hope to do a few posts on the subject of epistemology, as I think there are a number of profound differences between the way in which theists and atheists decide what’s true and what’s not, on an everyday basis.

    Finally, I also think that your cumulative case for believing in the God of Judaism and Christianity represents the kind of approach which is most likely to persuade people who are open to the truth.

  25. On the subject of the better and cleverer God, I would like to suggest that the real reason why some people (including many Christians) dislike Intelligent Design is an aesthetic one. Their notion of beauty is overly influenced by mathematics: they define beauty as a delicate and interesting balance between variety (or plenitude) and simplicity (or economy). This kind of thinking goes back to Leibniz and beyond. Both qualities are needed: a very simple world containing just one object would be simple but intolerably boring, while a world lacking simple laws would appear messy and mathematically inelegant. It follows that according to this account of beauty, a beautiful world should contain many different kinds of things, governed by just a few underlying laws or principles. The variety of elements in the periodic table is a good example: it is aesthetically pleasing, because they can all be explained in terms of just a few underlying principles: the laws of physics and chemistry, whose underlying mathematical simplicity is evident in their regularity, symmetry and order. Many people would like to think that living things possess the same kind of beauty: an ideal balance between variety and underlying simplicity. Because the underlying laws are mathematically simple in this model of beauty, these people reason that the act of generating things that possess the attribute of beauty should be a simple one. Neo-Darwinism appeals to them as a scientific theory, because it purports to account for the variety of living things we see today, on the basis of a few simple underlying principles (natural selection acting on variation arising stochastically, without any foresight of long-term goals).

    But living things aren’t like the periodic table. The phenomenon that characterizes them is not order but complexity – and complexity of a particular kind, at that. The beauty you see in a living cell is more like the beauty of a story than the beauty of crystals, which are highly ordered but still not very interesting, even when you contemplate them in all their variety. Stories have a much richer kind of beauty: they have parts (e.g. a beginning, a middle and an end; or the chapters in a novel), and these parts have to be ordered in a sequence specified by the author. The idea of writing a mathematical program that can generate a meaningful story from a “word bank” is comically absurd. Even a master programmer could not do that, unless he/she “cheated” and pre-specified the story (or a data bank of stories) in the program itself. But that wouldn’t save any effort, would it? And one cannot even imagine a simple procedure for writing a story. Stories are inherently complex; so the notion that they could be generated by a single, simple act makes no sense. The same goes for living things. They cannot be produced by a single, simple act. And just as one story cannot be changed step-by-step into another while still remaining a coherent story, so too, it is impossible for one type of living thing to change into another as a result of a step-by-step process, while remaining a viable organism.

    Stories are not like mathematical formulas; and yet, undoubtedly they are still beautiful. They require a lot of work to produce. They are not simple, regular or symmetrical; they have to be specified in considerable detail. Who are we to deny God the privilege of producing life in this way, if He so wishes? The universe is governed by His conception of beauty, not ours, and if it contained nothing but mathematically elegant forms, it would be a boring, sterile place indeed. Crystals are pretty; but life is much richer and more interesting than any crystal. Life cannot be generated with the aid of a few simple rules. It needs to be planned and designed very carefully, in a very “hands-on” fashion. In order to facilitate this, God needs a universe which is ontologically “open” to manipulation by Him whenever He sees fit, rather than a closed, autonomous universe.

    The beauty found in living things, then, cannot be defined as a balance between plenitude and economy, as Leibniz thought. It is a different kind of beauty, like that of a story. That is why life needs to be intelligently designed.

  26. VJT: thanks. On open vs closed minds, you might want to look here. (I note, it is hard to find a sensible online discussion of this fallacy, which is ever so relevant to epistemology.) And BA77, detractors notwithstanding, and whatever the occasional miss-steps he like the rest of us will make, is a treasure. Where does he find all that stuff? How? G

  27. fbeckwith said:
    “They have faith that those gaps will be closed.”

    RESPONSE:
    Well, while we’re on to psychology, we might as well say that atheists believe that all those Thomist philosophical arguments will one day be answered.

    fbeckwith said:
    “The question is not whether ID arguments work, rather, it’s whether they contribute anything to overturning materialism’s hegemony in certain sectors of the academic world. I don’t think they do, since the arguments accept much of that hegemony’s assumptions about the nature of science and what counts as knowledge.”"

    RESPONSE:
    You could say the exact same thing about the Resurrection of Jesus. Should we give up the academic battlefield on the historicity of the Resurrection just because it won’t “contribute anything to overturning materialism’s hegemony in certain sectors of the academic world”.

  28. Dr. Torley, I tend to view life as a strategy in game theoretic terms. If this happens, a living thing will respond one way. If that happens, life will respond another way. It is a strategy designed to interact with whatever the environment can throw at it. And this strategy can indeed be “mathematically beautiful” and contained within DNA and its code.

  29. Cosmic front loading, if it exists, should be detectable and observable.

    How could we observe something that happened before the beginning of the universe?

    And how could we detect cosmic front loading and distinguish it from any other explanation for the fine tuning of the universe?

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