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From the Dust: From Chaos to Order

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November 20, 2013 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose

Today's entry was written by Ryan Pettey. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Note: In honor of the digital debut of From the Dust on the iTunes store, today we're reposting another clip from the film, titled "From Chaos to Order", as well as a letter from the movie's director, Ryan Pettey. You can purchase (or rent) the movie today on iTunes, or if you prefer, a physical copy through Amazon or Highway Media. In this clip, Richard Colling, Ard Louis, and John Polkinghorne offer several examples of random processes leading to order rather than disorder. As Dr. Louis points out, the scientific definition of “randomness” is quite different from our everyday understanding of the word.

My name is Ryan Pettey, and I am a documentary filmmaker who has been amazingly blessed to work on a feature-length documentary over the last year and a half called From the Dust.

With From the Dust, we wanted to put something proactive on the table that could help motivate an elevated conversation about the “war” between science and faith. It was our goal to help Christians see (and accept) the complexity of the issues raised by modern science, as well as help them to courageously engage with the theological conversations happening within the sphere of Christian culture today. We wanted the film to address the topic hermeneutically, historically, and socially in order to gain a better perspective on the issues, and, hopefully, address some of the fears (justified or otherwise) concerning what science is telling us about our physical origins.

Personally, this project has been a spiritual shot in the arm and has whole-heartedly reignited my walk with God. I have been truly humbled by my opportunity to speak with so many incredible theologians, scientists, biblical scholars, and authors. As a result of this project, the book of Genesis has become more alive and more dynamic than I had ever allowed it to be. It is my hope that this film will both challenge and inspire people of faith, no matter where they are on their journey, to revere the complexity of God both through his word and his creation.

Through the BioLogos Forum, I am posting a few short, topic driven clips from the film in the coming weeks as conversation starters.

Thanks for watching!

Ryan Pettey
Director
From the Dust

“From Chaos to Order” transcript

Richard Colling: Some people have asked me why I’ve titled my book, “Random Designer”. It’s an important question to ask because there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what the word “random” means.

In Webster’s dictionary, if you look at the first definition will be this haphazard, purposeless thing. But if you look closely, you’ll see there’s a second definition. And the second definition of random says, “equal opportunity of occurrence”. All possibilities tested, all possibilities welcome.

When we look at the most elemental levels of biology, those are the types of things that you see. There are random principles involved in the very nature of how life works.

Ard Louis: One of the big problems with words like “random” is that they have quite well defined scientific meanings. Whereas, when we talk about it in a public, we often think of something that means no purpose, it just happened randomly, there’s no reason for it.

We think that if you want to optimize in a very high dimensional space, it’ll be a very complicated problem. These random methods are the most efficient way of doing it.

So, if you’re going to design something like an evolutionary process, some kind of generator of random mutations would be the most effective way of generating that complexity. In fact, the immune system is evolution in miniature, evolution inside your body. Because the immune system has only a limited number of proteins, and these have to change very rapidly every time you’re affected by a new pathogen. It randomly generates changes, and then it selects on those changes that bind better to the pathogen that’s coming in, and that’s how it optimizes.

John Polkinghorne: In that sense, science doesn’t mean meaninglessness; it means the particularity of what actually happens. A very important scientific insight is that regions in which really new things will happen are always, as scientists would like to say, at the age of chaos. There are regions where order and disorder, chance, and necessity interlace each other.

If there were no genetic mutations, there would be no new forms of life. If there were generic mutations all the time, there were no established forms of life. But we have just the right rate of generic mutation, to produce the fruitfulness of the history of life on earth.

Richard Colling: This reflects the hand of God. There are randomness principles, not only are they part of, but actually drive the very essence of what life is, and what life could be.

 


Ryan Pettey is a filmmaker and the director/editor of Satellite Pictures. He produced the feature length video From the Dust, which examines the question of human physical origins from a theological, historical and social perspective.

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Roger A. Sawtelle - #83953

December 16th 2013

Eddie wrote:

As for the sheep in the Biblical passages, they are clearly being employed metaphorically, for human followers of God.  “Sheep” in the biological sense are not what such Biblical passages are about.

Let us be clear.  The 23rd Psalm uses the sheep, yes, biological sheep, and the shepherd, and remember that David was a shepherd, to talk about the relationship between God’s people and YHWH God.  

The anthropomorphization, if any, then is saying that YHWH is like a human Good Shepherd.  If you want to blame me, David and the Bible for that I accept the responsibility. 

What it says is that God cares for God’s people like a Good Shepherd, identified by Jesus as Himself, cares for the sheep.  My observation is that it does not make sense to compare the shepherd to God if in actuality God does not care for sheep, as you indicate.

Of course this metaphor like all metaphors has limits, but the message of caring is loud and clear and this is exactly how Jesus used it.

The Bible does not put a huge gulf between humanity and the rest of nature.  Nor does it have two irreconcilable views of God and Reality, the Absolute and the Relational.  As you have pointed out this is the invention of Western dualistic theology.

You sem intent upon defending Western dualism to the end, which you should not, because

1) It is not Biblical and thus not essential to the faith.  It can be an impedement to faith at least in the long run.

2) It is no longer defensible and defending something that is false plays into the hands of those attacking our faith,

and 3) While God does not change, our understanding of how God works is subject to change and we need to bring our understanding of God closer to the Biblical Logos, not to some philosophical understanding of the Bible.    

The problem is not TE’s and their understanding of how God works.  The problems is to find the best understanding of how God works in and through evolutionary change.               


Eddie - #83957

December 16th 2013

Roger:

The Bible isn’t the slightest bit interested in the classification, physiology, genomics, or biological origin of sheep.  It’s clear that you don’t understand the metaphorical use of language, and that makes you incompetent to interpret the Bible—or any literature whatever.  

It’s also clear that you have basic reading comprehension problems, since, even after I explain my points in ten different ways, you still don’t understand them.  I don’t know whether the problem lies in a lack of intellectual training in philosophy, theology, and Biblical studies, or whether it lies in a kind of willfulness on your part which makes you close your ears to what I have actually said and imagine in your mind things that I have never said.  But whatever the cause of your inability to understand clear and articulate prose, I simply don’t have any more time to try to make myself clear to you.

Footnote 1:  I never said anything about “dualism” in this sequence of posts.  It is you who keeps bringing up “dualism” (while grossly misusing the word, which I presume reflects a lack of training in both philosophy and theology).  But for the record—and this has nothing to do with “dualism”—the Bible does make a strong distinction between human beings and other created things.  All the way through, from Genesis to Revelation.  All Biblical scholars know this.  But if Biblical scholarship isn’t taught in Methodist seminaries, there is nothing I can do about that.

Footnote 2:  My statements about the Bible are not derived from philosophy, but from years of studying the Old Testament in Hebrew and the New Testament in Greek, in the light of a very sophisticated graduate-school education in Biblical hermeneutics.  So please stop accusing me of basing my Biblical exegesis on philosophical conceptions.  I can of course discuss philosophical theology—another subject in which I have graduate training—and sometimes I do discuss philosophical theology.  But when I talk Biblical theology, I talk about the Bible alone.  I can defend everything I’ve said about the Bible with Biblical passages, without any reference to philosophy.  That is more than I can say for your own Biblical exegesis, which is loaded with extra-Biblical baggage derived from modern philosophical movements, such as the Enlightenment and Romanticism.  You need a cold shower in classical Calvinism.  I suggest reading the Institutes from cover to cover, and then some Dutch and Scottish theologians as a follow-up.

I think I will break off now.  And despite our intellectual differences, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.


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