From the Dust: From Chaos to Order
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!
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.