Creative Providence in Biology - Creation and Evolution

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Creative Providence in Biology

English > Fields of Research > Evolution and Creation

P. Rüst (2001), Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 53/3, 179-183; http://www.aneste.ch/files/ProvBiol.pdf (without the graphics at right below)
Original web publication by the American Scientific Affiliation (but with defunct e-mail address):
http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2001/PSCF9-01Ruest.pdf

Abstract:

Theists agree that, ultimately, God is the Creator of everything. And they agree that he graciously and continuously provides for the needs of all his creatures. There is much uncertainty and disagreement, however, about the how of his creating and providing. Some think he intervenes occasionally or often, others believe he initially created a gapless economy of parameters and natural laws which take care of everything. I propose that both theological and scientific indications point to a continuous, active, but usually hidden involvement of the Creator in all that happens.


 

- The "hidden options" suggested are very different from "god-of-the-gaps" speculation:

(1) there is no logical reason, either scientific or theological, for excluding such hidden options in principle;

(2) they are claimed for scientific reasons, not theological ones;

(3) we know from science that these fundamental limits for scientific investigation exist;

(4) they are not research-stops, but just honest admissions of ignorance in place of obfuscating just-so stories;

(5) they avoid the gratuitous appeal to future science, which is very vaguely and optimistically expected to be able, some day, to bridge gaps in our present knowledge;

(6) they are not gaps in which a usually inactive god would exceptionally intervene;

(7) they are not gaps in God's initial plan, but from the beginning a part of what he presumably intended to do at the appropriate time, in addition to his activity in the processes open to scientific enquiry;

(8) they are not gaps in "creation's economy" as all materials and their properties were fully in place and well equipped to proceed anywhere in development, just sometimes in need of the specific direction required (being, for lack of time, unsuccessful in mere random-walk trials).

This arch was eroded from a rock formation whose layers are standing almost vertically (Scandola on the isle of Corsica, France). This beautiful, fascinating landscape has rightfully been designated as a "Natural World Heritage Site" by the United Nations Environment Programme. The steep red cliffs rising from the sea contain many coves and grottos.

How were such spectacular sceneries formed? Are they the product of God's special care to embellish his creation for us humans to enjoy? Or did they result from natural processes? Both explanations apply. These formations can, in principle, be fully explained by the operation of physical laws. But this doesn't imply "nothing but" natural laws. Behind these there is a divine creative providence. At the beginning of our universe, 13.7 billion years ago, God specified the laws which then produced these geological structures "all by themselves", including such "improbable" arches.

Scandola is part of a large volcanic complex that formed in the Permian (245-290 million years ago) and was later subject to erosion and some metamorphism. Its history can be read from the rocks.

But if we move from physics and geology to biology, the situation changes. Individual geological structures contain rather little specific information to be specified in the beginning, with contingencies being responsible for the rest. In this context, "information" is not just Shannon information, but "semantic" information, or information required to specify the meaning of a language text or biological functionality. Biological structures contain enormous amounts of specific information required for functionality. Evolution, i.e. natural selection of chance variations, may be the source of many of their aspects. Yet, as a whole, the biosphere may contain a transastronomical amount of information, where "transastronomical" means that the original physical universe could not contain a sufficent number of elementary particles to code all information required.

If this is indeed the case, much of the information would have to be introduced gradually or intermittently by means of God's hidden options, i.e. his invisibly selecting specific outcomes of certain elementary events. Science is incapable of detecting any such action.


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