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Robert Boyle’s Clockwork Universe

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December 5, 2013 Tags: Christianity & Science - Then and Now, Science as Christian Calling

Today's entry was written by Ted Davis. You can read more about what we believe here.

Robert Boyle’s Clockwork Universe

Woodcut by Tobias Stimmer, Astronomical Clock in the Cathedral in Strasbourg (1574), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, anonymous gift, accession number 2009.157. The second of three astronomical clocks to have been displayed in the Strasbourg Cathedral, this one was designed by Conrad Dasypodius, professor of mathematics at Strasbourg University, and completed in 1574 by Isaac and Josiah Habrecht. Boyle mentions this clock several times in his writings, but there is no evidence that he ever visited Strasbourg. He probably learned about it from the description in Dasypodius’ book, Horologii astronomici descriptio (1580).

The previous column introduced readers to the mechanical philosophy; if you haven’t read it yet, please do so before reading this one, which explains why Boyle found the mechanical philosophy so attractive theologically.

Why Boyle Found the Mechanical Philosophy So Attractive Theologically

Boyle’s belief in the biblical God substantially motivated his wholehearted embrace of the mechanical philosophy. He thought it was actually more consistent with biblical statements of divine sovereignty than the non-mechanistic views of Aristotle and Galen. This is the argument of his subtle treatise about God and nature, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Receiv’d Notion of Nature, much of which was written at the height of his powers (in the 1660s) though it wasn’t published until twenty years later. To understand what he meant by the “Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature,” remember that “vulgar” originally meant ordinary or commonplace, and that Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible was called the “Vulgate” for that reason. Boyle was referring to the Greek conception of nature, which was still widely accepted.

 

Title page from Boyle’s Free Enquiry
Title page from Boyle’s Free Enquiry. The printed publication date of 1685/6 indicates that the sheets came from the printer (Henry Clark) prior to March 25 in 1686. In the “Old Style” English calendar, which was still the official legal calendar in Boyle’s time, the New Year began on March 25 rather than January 1. However the “New Style” dates were also coming into use, and we often find English printers using both dates simultaneously, as in this instance. The “Imprimatur” just above the publication information was an official license to print the book—a requirement in England for all books at the time. As the writing across the bottom of the page indicates, this particular copy was “Presented to the R[oyal]. Society [on] ye 16 June [16]86. By ye Hon[oura]ble Authour.” Contrary to what readers often assume, the “y” in “ye” is actually an archaic form of the dipthong “th,” known as the “thorn” letter, so that “ye” should be pronounced “the.” Photograph by Edward B. Davis, used by kind permission of the Royal Society.

What did he think of the Greek notion of nature? Simply put, Boyle believed it was inappropriate—both theologically and scientifically—to speak of “Nature” doing anything at all. We’ve already had a glimpse of his scientific objections in my previous column. What were his theological objections? For starters, he couldn’t find an equivalent notion in the Bible. “I do not remember, that in the Old Testament, I have met with any one Hebrew word that properly signifies Nature, in the sense we take it in.” Though biblical authors “many times mention the Corporeal Works of God, yet they do not take notice of Nature, which our Philosophers would have his great Vicegerent in what relates to them.” Indeed, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “who were Greeks,” about sowing seeds (1 Cor. 15: 37-8), “he does not attribute the produc’d Body [the mature plant] to Nature, but when he had spoken of a grain of Wheat, or some other seed put into the ground, he adds, that God gives it such a Body as he pleaseth, and to every seed its own Body, i.e. the Body belonging to its kind” (The Works of Robert Boyle, vol. 10, pp. 459-60).

In other words, a more biblical conception of nature will focus on the properties and powers freely given to bodies by the Creator himself, not on an imaginary “Vicegerent” called “Nature,” that stands like “a Goddess, or a kind of Semi-Deity” between God and his creation (p. 456). By removing “Nature” as an intermediary, the mechanical philosophy benefitted theology by underscoring divine sovereignty: nature is a creation, not an independent being, and its created properties and powers are the proper subject of our study. At the same time, the “vulgar” view holds back scientific progress; “the veneration, wherewith Men are imbued for what they call Nature, has been a discouraging impediment to the Empire of Man over the inferior Creatures of God.” Many even thought it was actually “impious” to transcend “those Boundaries which Nature seems to have put and setled among her Productions.” Those who view “Nature” as “such a venerable thing … make a kind of scruple of Conscience, to endeavour so to emulate any of her Works, as to excel them” (p. 450). What Boyle called “the Empire of Man” was nothing other than the Genesis mandate, God’s command to humanity to “rule over” the rest of creation. To the extent that Greek conceptions impeded human dominion, to the same extent they were theologically objectionable.

Boyle’s Clockwork Universe

Finally, by underscoring the wonderful, astonishing complexity and intricacy of the created order, the mechanical philosophy powerfully focused our attention on the Creator: his wisdom, power, and goodness are seen abundantly in the creation. This is where the notion of a clockwork universe comes in: the mechanism requires a mechanic to make it. Boyle was hardly the first person to use the clock metaphor, but I doubt that anyone used it more often or more enthusiastically. Even before he adopted the mechanical philosophy, he had encountered essentially the same idea in A Woorke concerning the trewnesse of the Christian Religion, a treatise by the Huguenot writer Philippe de Mornay that deeply influenced Boyle’s development as a Christian thinker. Although Mornay was not (as far as I can tell) a mechanical philosopher, he spoke of “the great wheele of Heaven,” which “hath now of long time turned about without ceasing, wilt thou be so childish or so blind, as to belieeve that it hath turned so from everlasting? O man, the same workmayster which hath set up the Clock of thy hart for halfe a score yeares, hath also set up this huge engine of the Skyes for certeyne thousands of yeares” (p. 100).

Boyle appealed specifically to the clock metaphor in arguing for the superior theological implications (as he saw them) of the mechanical philosophy. Proponents of the vulgar conception of nature “seem to imagine the World to be after the nature of a Puppet, whose Contrivance indeed may be very Artificial, but yet is such, that almost every particular motion the Artificer is fain (by drawing sometimes one Wire or String, sometimes another) to guide, and oftentimes over-rule, the Actions of the Engine; whereas, according to us, ’tis like a rare Clock, such as may be that at Strasbourg, where all things are so skilfully contriv’d, that the Engine being once set a Moving, all things proceed according to the Artificers first design, and the Motions of the little Statues, that at such hours perform these or those things, do not require, like those of Puppets, the peculiar interposing of the Artificer, or any Intelligent Agent imployed by him, but perform their functions upon particular occasions, by vertue of the General and Primitive Contrivance of the whole Engine” (The Works of Robert Boyle, vol. 10, p. 448).

The Relevance of Robert Boyle Today

Boyle’s clockwork universe united his natural theology inextricably with the mechanical philosophy. The degree to which the subsequent Anglo-American tradition of natural theology derives its impulse and content from Boyle is not fully appreciated: even Paley’s watch on a heath was already lodged in Boyle’s pocket. Consider the following passage, probably written in the last decade of Boyle’s life but never actually used in any of his printed books. A transcription was eventually published by Jack MacIntosh in 2006, but I’ll quote a copy of the manuscript I obtained in 1989, when I first read it in the library of the Royal Society and was thunderstruck by the remarkable similarity to Paley’s famous analogy: “if an Indian or Chinois [Chinese], should have found a Watch cast on shore in some Trunke or Casket of some shipwrackt European vessel; by observing the motions and figure of it, he would quickly conclude that ’twas made by some intelligent & skillfull Being” (Royal Society, Boyle Papers, vol. 5, fol. 105). Insofar as the modern ID movement is deeply indebted to Paley (and it is), it is no less indebted to Boyle.

 

Painting: Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery
Joseph Wright of Derby, A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (ca. 1776), Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Derby, UK. I used Wright’s famous painting of the air pump in a previous column. In this equally famous painting, a man who looks for all the world like Isaac Newton–probably a deliberate choice by Wright—demonstrates a lighted “orrery,” a mechanical model of the Solar System named after Charles Boyle, the 4th Earl of Orrery, for whom the first actual “orrery” was built in 1713 (contrary to the information in Wikipedia). Charles Boyle was a grandson of Roger Boyle, one of Robert Boyle’s six older brothers. This powerful image may have helped link Newton with the manifestly false view that he invented the idea of the clockwork universe, when in fact he rejected it as a theologically inappropriate notion. (Wikipedia was one of many sources endorsing this misconception, until my student Nathan Van Wyck corrected it in 2011.) The clock metaphor actually predates the Scientific Revolution, and it was Boyle, not Newton, who helped make it so popular.

The rock-bottom issue for Boyle—how we should conceive of nature—remains equally relevant to certain other important conversations today. Some feminists and environmentalists want us to reverse course and stop thinking of nature as an impersonal thing; they seem to prefer “Mother Nature,” or something similar. Some theologians (a prominent example is David Ray Griffin) want us to abandon the notion of a transcendent God; they would prefer to revive the Stoic notion of the “world-soul,” which Boyle vigorously opposed. Readers interested in any of these debates stand to benefit greatly from studying this subtle book—which is now back in print after three centuries.

I close with that recommendation.

Looking Ahead

Coupled with his commitment to the mechanical philosophy, Boyle also endorsed “methodological naturalism,” the philosophical position that miracles aren’t appropriate scientific explanations. At the same time he aggressively promoted “intelligent design.” Both parts of that interesting combination—which might strike readers as paradoxical—will be examined in upcoming columns.

References and Suggestions for Further Reading

This material is adapted from Edward B. Davis, “Robert Boyle’s Religious Life, Attitudes, and Vocation,” Science & Christian Belief 19 (2007): 117-38, with additional information from the introduction to Edward B. Davis and Michael Hunter, Robert Boyle, A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (Cambridge University Press, 1996); Edward B. Davis, “Newton’s Rejection of the ‘Newtonian World View’: The Role of Divine Will in Newton’s Natural Philosophy,” in Facets of Faith and Science, Volume 3: The Role of Beliefs in the Natural Sciences, ed. Jitse M. van der Meer (University Press of America, 1996), pp. 75-96; Samuel L. Macey, Clocks and the Cosmos (Archon Books, 1980); and Liba Taub, “Orrery,” Instruments of Science: An Historical Encyclopedia, ed. Robert Bud et al. (Garland Publishing, 1998), pp. 429-30.

Quotations from A Free Enquiry are from the first edition, as reprinted in The Works of Robert Boyle, 14 vols., ed. Michael Hunter and Edward B. Davis (Pickering & Chatto, 1999-2000). I also quote Philippe de Mornay, A Woorke concerning the trewnesse of the Christian Religion (London, 1587), as translated by Sir Philip Sydney and Arthur Golding, the same edition Boyle himself read.

 


Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. At Messiah, Davis teaches courses on historical and contemporary aspects of Christianity and science and directs the Central Pennsylvania Forum for Religion and Science.

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PNG - #83841

December 5th 2013

What did Newton prefer to the clockwork universe idea? I have read and recommended Dolnick’s The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society and the Birth of the Modern World, so it looks like I have a little backtracking to do.


Ted Davis - #83842

December 5th 2013

Newton was no less a mechanical philosopher than Boyle or Descartes (that genre came in multiple species), but he pushed the notion of forces and “active principles” in nature as manifestations of the divine will. In his opinion, the clock metaphor inappropriately confined God’s actions to the original creation. You can see how he might think this even from Boyle’s writings alone, but he saw this especially in Leibniz—his bitter enemy, with whom he disputed about the invention of calculus as well as about God & nature.

I haven’t read Dolnick’s book, which came out after I had written the most recent version of my refutation of the widely accepted myth that Newton originated and/or endorsed the clock metaphor (my chapter in http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674057418). So, I don’t know exactly what he says. You might compare my essay with his book. If you get a chance to do so in the near future, please add a comment here with your findings.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #83850

December 5th 2013

While it has its strong point, there are some serious reprocussions that this view of mechanical philosophy has on today’s science. 

The first is that it ignores diversity between different branches of science.  While it works well with the physical sciences for which it was designed, it does not work well with the life sciences and the human (social) sciences.  Plants and animals are not mechanical beings and less so are humans.  Even so Darwin thought that his Theory of Evolution would be considered on the same plane as Newton’s mechanical laws.

Physical sciences are thought of as “pure” sciences and the goal scientists is to bring all sciences to this level, so Dawkins can call all life forms, including humans it would seem, “survival machines.”

Again, Nature, which includes humans, is not uniform.  Physical things do not act the same way that organic plants and animals do, and humans act differently from the way other animals do. 

There are similarities, but when we try to ignore the differences as Scientism tries to do, we suffer serious consequences.  One size does not fit all, which we find when we try to fit life into a matter only form.

When science makes reality mechanical, it squeezes the rational and the spiritual out reality.  Again this makes some sense when looking at the physical sciences, but even here it is false. 

John 1 puts the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, directly in the center of Nature.  There is no duality between God and the Creation, between the natural and the Supernatural, Jesus is God with us, closer to us than the air that we breathe.  The Trinity makes it possible to move beyond Western dualism inspired in part by Jewish monotheism.

Mechanical philosophy was intended to protect the place of God from having a rival in nature wnich is not an agent or a person.  However what Scientism has tried to do is to claim that Reality is driven by blind and random mechanical forces. 

Scientism says that there is not Agency behind the universe and thus LIfe has no Purpose and Meaning.       

            

 

   


Jon Garvey - #83858

December 6th 2013

Roger

For once I fully agree not only with what you’ve written but how you’ve written it. Thanks for that post.

The mechanical model of Boyle seems to me to have (as Ted ably shows) been of great value, but also to have led to huge problems, some of which came from the rejection of the older models.

I’ll mention just one instance. Boyle (accoding to the article) rejects the “Nature as organism” model partly by linking it to occasionalism. The idea of a very Polkinghornian (ie the kind he rejects) “puppetmaster” God pulling the strings of every event is replaced by the hi-tech horological view of a precision machine set up to run faultlessly from the very beginning, sans interference - still very much the predominant view in TE circles.

That, of course, led directly to Deism as well as to effective science, but it’s interesting that in these days it is Boyle’s mechanical view of the creation itself, that is taken as a symbol of a puppetmaster God: only the “puppet” directly controlled by God has become a “robot” fashioned like one of Boyle’s clocks to run according to God’s program. The machine, in other words, is just a more sophisticated puppet.

The reaction to that, in theological circles, has recently been to replace Boyle’s concept of the creation as consisting of creatures given natures such as to execute God’s sovereign purposes (not far off what I find in Aquinas, incidentally) to the idea of a nature given freedom and autonomy… which doesn’t appear to differ greatly from the personified Nature, standing between us and God, which he rejected in the first place.

Certainly the view of evolution (another personified force, like nature?) presented by the scientists on the “Chaos to Order” prize-fight thread is of a very different kind of clock from the chronometer Boyle seems to have envisaged.


Eddie - #83861

December 6th 2013

Roger:

I agree with Jon that this is one of your best posts.  I can assent to most of what you have written.  (In the third-last paragraph, you fall off the wagon into your misguided “Western dualism” trope again, but I won’t pick on that when your post is otherwise so good.)

It is interesting that you have so often said negative things about Greek thinking, because part of what is so good about your analysis of the physical, the organic, etc., is that it is so Greek!  Aristotle would nod in approval.

As for the Logos, I agree with you that the concept has not been fully plumbed for its riches, especially regarding our views of nature and creation.  One would think that an organization called Bio-Logos would devote at least as much discussion to the Logos as to genomes and fossils, but sadly, that is not the case.  Logos of course means “speech,” but in both the Greek and Christian tradition it most often has the nuance of “ordering speech” or “rational speech”—and hence it has obvious links with ideas of planning and design.  But we don’t hear much about how God orders or designs nature on this site.  We hear far more about randomness and indeterminacy, and we hear far more about how God creates by not ordering or designing anything, but by “kenotically” withdrawing his influence to let nature be “free.”

Indeed, Boyle’s mechanistic picture may have its problems—it can, if wrongly contextualized, lead to a cold Deism.  But a clockmaking God is still a rational, ordering God, such as we see in Genesis, the Psalms, Job, etc.  There is more to the Logos than clockmaking, of course, but clockmaking—like all activities of design—points in the direction of the Logos.  The clockmaker-God image is limited and liable to misuse, but it is not entirely misleading.  As long as we don’t fall into the trap of interpreting analogies as photographs of reality, it can be helpful.  It drives home the reality of both God’s reason and God’s will—both of which are dealt with in only a very murky and unsatisfactory way in most formulations of TE.


sy - #83852

December 5th 2013

I suppose Boyle would not have been a great fan of the Gaia hypothesis. And similar ideas.


Jon Garvey - #83859

December 6th 2013

I’m not sure, Sy. From the actual Lovelock stuff I read Gaia hypothesis wasn’t really about earth as a personified nature, but as a unified (and naturalistic) system - one big Boyle machine rather than a lot of little ones.

Not that I’m well-versed in it, but I remember feeling the well had been poisoned by what people said about the idea - they just hated the teleology inherent in it, I think.


Lou Jost - #83879

December 7th 2013

I think Lovelock himself later insisted that the Gaia hypothesis was not teleological, though his initial formulations seemed designed to give the opposite impression.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #83862

December 6th 2013

Jon and Sy,

Jon, I am very glad we have finally come to agreement. 

Maybe we need to make a dystinction between organic and personal.  Lovelock sees Gaia as a unified natural organic system, which is fitting because flora and fauna are both natural and organic.

Fauna and flora do act purposefully, even though we do not consider them to be agents or persons.  Bees build hives as an example.  Other animals hunt.  Plants seek water, nutrients, and sun light. 

Again Lovelock is controversial because he sees the world as organic, that is interactive and connected, not mechanistic as do the Darwinists and Scientism.  Organic also means meaning and purpose which is again what concerns me and I hope all of us. 


Jon Garvey - #83869

December 6th 2013

Roger, whether the agreement is “final” I doubt, but let’s value it while we have it. Another post I agree with.

The organic-personal distinction is good: there is a need to recognise that humans (and angels!) possess something ontologically unique, as Christian teaching has always said. I’ve been arguing for that in the “freedom-of-nature” discussion here for 2 years. Only humans can really be “free”, unless nature is also a rational agent (but “Nature”, as Boyle said, is actually nothing.)

At the same time, the teleological goals of animals are real, as are the less clearly “purposive” goals of plants, or of intra-cellular functions: a lion has more awareness of its quest for prey than a cell does, but they are both purposeful, and built into the nature of a holistic entity, the “organism”. Efficient causes can describe them, but not explain them.

Sorry to go Greek on you, but Aristotle was aware of that, attributing a specific kind of existence (we translate it “soul”, but it’s just what you mean by organic = an organised and purposeful nature) to the inanimate (not really organised, of course), to plants, to animals and, lastly, to rational beings.

I don’t know where Boyle would stand on that - it depends what he meant by an animal’s “nature” I guess. But modernist science has now reduced all natures to the merely mechanical, at the level of the interaction of particles. So an organism is “really” just a collection of mechanisms, the result of particles interacting (the same reductionism being a trap for both scientists and intelligent design proponents, and probably Creationists too, if they think about it). And even Christians then get irrelevantly hung up on where God “interferes” in the particles’ business, or not.

Similarly the “environment” is just seen as a bunch of entities conveniently considered together. The strength of Gaia hypothesis is in taking a systems approach - which shouldn’t be hard to translate into a specifically Christian, creation-based account - even a Christological one, in which God connects the natures of all his beings into an interactive whole in order to function as he wills (rather than it happening to function by some divinely neglected principle of molecules, and genes or organisms struggling to be the ones to survive). And that’s and even wider interdependent unity than the biosphere of Gaia - it’s the realm of God’s providence, which is as unified, connected and interactive as the natures on and through which it acts.

Science, since Bacon, has downplayed or excluded final causation, including every level of teleology mentioned above, in order to isolate mechanism - though in fact it cannot even operate without assuming final causality. And it has also excluded formal causation - that is to say the “organisation” you mention, which seemed to be an encumbrance to science’s investigation of material efficent causes back in Boyle’s day, but is maybe only now emerging as indispensible in the study of information (Paul Davies is good on that).

In fact, I’m beginning to sense that formal causation (in Aquinas’ thinking, the especial work of the Logos!) is what ID is studying. If they knew it, they’d stop trying to compete with science on efficient causation, and science would eventually realise it was the worse for tryng to include immaterial information under material causation, which is like trying to measure a soul.

Here endeth the gospel.


Eddie - #83871

December 6th 2013

Hi, Jon.

I agree with you about the importance of formal cause explanation, and I think you are right to say that formal cause should be more important to ID proponents, and the efficient cause less so.  I think that part of the problem is that many—not all, but many—ID proponents are also “creationists” in a particular narrow American sense of the word, and are therefore always trying to insert God into the chain of efficient causes.

Of course, God could have been the efficient cause of particular actions in the past; nothing in the Bible or tradition forbids it, and some things even suggest it.  But it isn’t necessary for Christians to insist that God was the efficient cause of elephants or our sun any more than that he was the efficient cause of the snowfall of last week.  God doesn’t literally have to stitch together an embryo in the mother’s womb in order for the divine intellect to be behind childbirth, as the source of the template which makes childbirth possible.

Natural science used to be a broader kind of explanation of natural phenomena, including all of Aristotle’s causes.  It was people such as Bacon and Descartes who led the charge to make science a much narrower kind of explanation.  That movement led to a great increase in science’s power to predict and control events, but, for the reason you give—the misconception that explanations in terms of particles and forces is all that is necessary for understanding nature—it also seriously distorted the picture of nature and presented a crippled notion of “explanation.”  And it’s very hard to get people to see this, because, with rare exceptions, working scientists today spend little or no time studying the history and philosophy of notions such as “science” and “nature” and “causation” and “explanation” etc., and the popularizers of science are usually no better in that regard.


GJDS - #83872

December 6th 2013

I think it is widely understood that Aristotle discussed four ‘causes’: (1) that of which and out of which a thing is made, (2) the form or pattern of a thing, (3) the origin of a change or state of rest in something (efficient cause), and (4)  the end or goal of a thing (final cause). He was particularly interested in biological forms, and his outlook sought to explains the being’s life cycle and characteristic activities. Generally formal and final causes coincided in his thinking, as the mature of natural form was the end or goal of the activities of the organism. I have tried reading some of his Metaphysics and I find it difficult stuff – his views on being and substance include the divine. General commentaries show that for Aristotle, “to study something as a being is to study it in virtue of what it has in common with all other things. To study the universe as being is to study it as a single overarching system, embracing all the causes of things coming into being and remaining in existence.”

I think efficient cause may be discussed by science; the statement that has continued as a general view, is a search for a single overarching system which contains all causes of things that are, and things that may yet come into being. I tend to think that scientists, past and present, physical- of bio-sciences, continue to ‘look for such an overarching single system’, although teleology as portrayed as a causal chain, may be replaced by a ‘time-line of change from a beginning’. Theoretical physics now seeks (perhaps) a single elegant formula that would be the ‘theory of everything’.

I am not sure scientists will ever get a theory (or maths statement) of everything, but I sense a shift from Aristotle – a single formula may be used as a basis for the ultimate understanding of the Universe, but such a result imo would enable science to speak of something ‘real’ – a bit like the elemental outlook, in which everything else is ‘made up’ from this ‘real’. I think Aristotle’s outlook may even take in the divine – I do not possess a sufficient understanding of his thinking to be certain. The clockwork universe seems to me to be a continuation of Aristotle’s overarching system, with a mechanical detailed and mathematically supported basis. It may be seen as a departure from Aristotle, but in a general sense, quantum mechanics seems more of a departure than Boyle and others. Current thinking and discussion often includes a view regarding information as part of the “real entities”.


Roger A. Sawtelle - #83873

December 6th 2013

Eddie,

Thank you for your agreement and your wisdom.  We need to remember that you are a philosopher and I am a theologian which means we approach Truth from different angles.  I am sorry if I hit a raw nerve.

I hope that Aristotle is smiling in agreement over what I wrote.  I would like to think that there is a whole group of philosophers and theologians looking down or maybe even looking at their computer screens at what we write, shaking their heads, laughing, discussing as we struggle with these important problems.  As Hebrews says,  “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” cheering us on.

Jesus came to reconcile the world to God and to reconcile the best of the Jewish faith with Greek thought.  This the NT writer were am to do and ancient theologians continued the task.

However we will never finish the task and must always seek to go beyond the past in order to grow in our understanding of God’s world, ourselves, and how God works.          


Jon Garvey - #83878

December 7th 2013

Roger

If they’re true philosphers they’re probably too busy arguing among themselves to look down on us!


Roger A. Sawtelle - #83880

December 7th 2013

Lou,

In responding to the accusations by Dawkins that the Gaia Theory was teleological in the Arostotelian sense, which he said was the kiss of death for a scientific theory as did Dawkins, Lovelock said it was not teleological.

Now I understand why Lovelock would want to protect his scientific reputation so he has to respond negatively to Dawkins.  However  I do not consider nonAristotelean teleology a negative in scientific discussion so I embrance it but not in the sense that Dawkins and Lovelock were using this concept.

What Lovelock did admit to as to how he differed with Dawkins was he talks about biological change without focusing on genes, which of course is Dawkins’ basic point of view.

The two most prominent biological thinkers of our day are at odds because they cannot reconcile their two approaches to biological change as I have tried to do.        


Roger A. Sawtelle - #83885

December 9th 2013

Jon and Eddie,

We have a problem.  Darwin and Aristotle are trying to apply linear concepts on a nonlinear system, Evolution.

Lou commented that the process of Creation or the “Big Bag” is in some sense indeterminate in the sense that its exact outcome cannot be determined, but only its general outcome (based upon our understanding of quantum physics.)  For me that is not a problem, because God does not create linearly, but nonlinearly, because God is both Three and One.

The question then is “How does God create fora and fauna nonlinearly?”  For me God does so through both Variation and Selection.

Only when we understand how these two processes work interdependently do we really understand evolution.  This is what Darwinian theory has failed to do.     


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