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The God Who Acts: Robert John Russell on Divine Intervention and Divine Action, Part 3

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May 25, 2012 Tags: Divine Action & Purpose
The God Who Acts: Robert John Russell on Divine Intervention and Divine Action, Part 3

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

Note: This series presents Robert John Russell’s view of how God is at work in what we have called the “ordinary processes” of the world—how God acts in the areas of creation that are commonly explored through the natural sciences. While Russell argues that God does miraculously act in human history (most importantly in the bodily resurrection of Jesus), here the focus is divine action that occurs in and through the natural laws that God himself ordains, even when those processes and events appear “random” to us.

In Part 1 of our series, we introduced the multiple meanings that Christians today associate with the word intervention, and shared Russell’s description of how views of divine action have changed throughout history. In Part 2, BioLogos Associate Editor Tom Burnett examined how the Enlightenment conception of “supernatural intervention” distorted a biblical understanding of divine action. Today’s Part 3 addresses Russell’s concept of Non-Interventionist Objective Divine Action—NIODA—in more detail.

The Enlightenment view of an “interventionist” God does not accurately reflect a biblical understanding of a Creator who is both transcendent and immanent—fully present and continuously involved in his creation. Not only is this sense of intervention theologically flawed, it depends on outdated science—deterministic physics and reductionistic philosophy. Now that quantum mechanics suggests that nature displays a fundamental indeterminism, it is no longer necessary to insist that God must “suspend” or “violate” natural laws in order to directly act in our world.

Given this background, Robert John Russell has proposed that divine action can be non-interventionist while still being objective—God really does act in the world. Russell calls his conception non-interventionist objective divine action (NIODA). NIODA is a theological framework that is consonant with both scripture and contemporary science, and it frees us from Enlightenment conceptions of that have distorted our understanding of the Bible for centuries. But NIODA requires time and careful reflection to fully appreciate, as it can be misunderstood as rejecting God’s miraculous work (which it certainly does not). More accurately, it is a way to understand both the “miraculous” and the “non-miraculous” processes of nature as being fully within the sphere of God’s divine action.

Consider, for example, the central miracle of the Exodus from Egypt—the Hebrew crossing of the Red Sea. The parting of the Red Sea is an objective act of God which most Christians would describe as a genuine 'miracle'. However, we might ask if such a miraculous event is necessarily conceived in interventionist terms. Russell’s concept of Quantum Mechanical NIODA could certainly serve as the physical foundation for an event of this type, and the chaotic amplification (e.g. ‘Butterfly effect’) of quantum events as manifested through a weather system (a 'strong East wind') readily provides a physical mechanism for God’s parting of the waters of the Red Sea. In this way, objective Divine actions such as this could be called 'non-interventionist miracles'. The reason why is because this type of scenario is truly a ‘miracle’ in the most common or obvious sense of the term (a dramatic deliverance of God's people not owing to chance) and yet no regularities of nature need be 'suspended' to bring about this sequence of temporally unlikely events. Below we’ll look at some of Russell’s responses to other common misconceptions about this way of thinking about God’s actions.

NIODA is not visible through the lens of natural science

Russell acknowledges that we may recognize instances of divine action through faith, while those same instances may only appear as random events through the lens of natural science:

Where faith will posit it, science will see only random events described, as far as they can be by science, by the theories of physics, chemistry, biology, ecology, and so on. The positive grounds for an alleged divine action are theological, not scientific. This [NIODA] hypothesis is not drawn from science even though it aims to be consistent with science. Science would not be expected to include anything explicitly about God’s action in nature as part of its scientific explanation of the world. Theology, however, in its explanation of the world, can and should include both. This is as it should be for the mutual integrity of, and distinction between, the two fields of inquiry. [p. 126]

Just because divine action is not visible through the lens of science, it does not mean that science is incompatible with faith, but rather that science is not the exclusive basis of knowledge. As an academic discipline, natural science is constrained by its methodologies. Fortunately, human understanding is not limited to natural science alone. Theology can play a mediating role by acknowledging scientific discoveries and pointing to divine action in the world. It is not an either/or scenario.

NIODA is not meant to “prove” that God acts

Belief in divine action does not have its foundation in natural science, but from deep theological reflection that draws from other sources, including scripture, tradition, experience, and reason (see, for instance, John Wesley’s Quadrilateral). Thus NIODA is not a "scientific proof" or even a precise explanation of how God acts. It simply maintains that “God’s direct or basic acts—although ultimately mysterious and unknowable in themselves—result in an objective event effecting the course of nature without intervention.” (p. 126)

Russell is keen to distinguish NIODA from Intelligent Design:

[NIODA] undercuts the rationale of intelligent design as an approach to God’s action in evolution by arguing for such action without divine intervention, by describing it as a theological and not a scientific theory, and without calling for a “new science” that includes an appeal to “agency” within biology. (p. 215)

Here Russell asserts that NIODA is a theological theory, not a scientific theory. He does not view contemporary natural science as deeply flawed or in need of dramatic revision. Specifically, God does not need to supernaturally “intervene” in order to create life through evolutionary processes. Russell does not call for a new science that appeals to a designer in biology.

NIODA is not a God-of-the-gaps theory

Russell also makes it clear that NIODA is not meant to fill gaps in scientific knowledge, but to draw theological insights from aspects of science that do have adequate explanations:

An epistemic gaps argument is based on what we do not know about the world. It invokes God to explain things that we do not yet understand. But many gaps in our current understanding of nature will eventually be filled by new discoveries or changing paradigms in science. The argument is that we ought not stake our theological ground on transitory scientific puzzles. In a moving letter from a Nazi prison cell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer urges us to reject such a ‘stopgap’ argument as he calls it. Instead we must discuss God’s activity in the world in terms of ‘what we know, not…what we don’t know.’ [p. 126]

As Russell sees it, God works through the natural processes described by quantum mechanics, not against them (after all, natural processes are themselves are a result of general divine action). Moreover, because nature displays indeterminism at its most fundamental level, God is free to act in unique and special ways through what materialists can only describe as “chance”:

By avoiding a “gaps” strategy, quantum-based NIODA allows us to affirm that God is the transcendent Creator ex nihilo of the universe as a whole and that God is the immanent ongoing Creator of each special event who acts objectively in, with, and through the processes of Nature (creatio continua). Non-interventionist objective special divine action thus offers a robust response to atheistic challenges to the intelligibility and credibility of Christian faith in light of “chance” in nature since the presence of “chance” does not imply an absent God and a “pointless” and dysteleological world but an ever-present God acting immanently with purpose in the world. [p. 169]

NIODA does not rule out special providence, miracles, or the efficacy of prayer

As we saw in part 2 of this series, the divine action described by NIODA is real (objective), but it is not "miraculous" in the sense of suspending natural laws. Thus it is consistent with what we know about how the physical world generally operates. However, Russell points out that that NIODA is not the only way that God acts in the world. The 'interventionist-miraculous' events depicted in the Bible are just a different category of divine action than NIODA. God is continuously acting to carry out the general processes of nature, and he also acts in special ways in carrying out his unique relationship with humans:

The remarkable distinction made possible between miracles and NIODA in an indeterministic world offers theologians for the first time the opportunity to distinguish between objective divine providence in light of science (see, for example, my version of theistic evolution in chapter 6), and those events in scripture and the life of faith which do require the language of miracle, such as the nature miracles and healing miracles in the New Testament. [p. 129]

In Russell’s conception, there is both general divine action and special divine action. General divine action (aka general providence) can usually be described by what scientists and philosophers call natural laws. Special divine action (aka special providence) takes place in irregular, unpredictable ways as God interacts with humans, both individually and collectively, throughout history. This would include, for instance, both the miracles of the Bible and God’s interaction with humans through prayer. Keep in mind, however, that special divine action is not necessarily “better” or “more special” than general divine action. It is just something that God does in addition to the consistent, faithful, ongoing action by which he sustains and guides everything in the universe.

“More than a miracle”: The bodily resurrection of Jesus

When discussing the miracles of the bible, Russell specifically mentions the resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-46), a man who had lain dead in a tomb for four days. Raising a man from the grave is a miracle in the truest sense, and a reason to celebrate the mighty acts of God. But in spite of this special divine action, Lazarus would eventually die again, as all humans do, subject to the same natural processes that age and destroy us.

On the other hand, Russell notes that there is one particular case of divine action that stands out from all the rest—the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, who laid dead in a tomb for three days, was resurrected and transfigured in such a way that he would never die again. This is what Russell would call “more than a miracle”, since the natural course of affairs was not just temporarily altered, but permanently transfigured within the body of the resurrected Christ. (For further discussion, see Russell’s chapter 10 on the resurrection of Jesus and Christian eschatology)


In this three-part series, we have explored how Christians have thought about divine action throughout history, particularly we’ve struggled with the idea of supernatural intervention since the Enlightenment. We have also discussed Robert John Russell’s contention that the concept of intervention is fraught with both theological and scientific problems. Finally, we’ve considered Russell’s NIODA as a framework that is based on a biblical understanding of divine action and draws insights from contemporary science. NIODA reflects both the fundamental indeterminacy of the world and the evidence that non-miraculous processes could possibly lead to the incredible diversity and interrelationships of life on earth.

The goal here has not been to give an exhaustive account of all the material in Russell’s book, but to introduce the BioLogos community to some academic reflections on the nature of divine action. In a future series, we’ll focus on the second half of Russell’s book, which deals with several continuing challenges:

  • Developing a coherent foundation for theistic evolution (chapter 6)
  • The problem of natural evil as it relates to evolution (chapter 8)
  • The future of the cosmos in light of the resurrection of Christ (chapters 9 and 10)

We look forward to exploring these topics together with you!

From Chapter 4, “Does ‘The God Who Acts’ Really Act? New Approaches to Divine Action In Light Of Contemporary Science,” in Cosmology: From Alpha to Omega by Robert John Russell, copyright © 2008 Fortress Press. Reproduced by permission of Augsburg Fortress Publishers. All rights reserved. No further reproduction allowed without the written permission of the publisher.

Thomas is a former BioLogos Associate Editor. He currently works in science communications at the National Academy of Sciences, and he has also worked with the American Scientific Affiliation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has degrees in philosophy and the history of science from Rice University and University of California, Berkeley.

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Bilbo - #70113

May 25th 2012

Thomas Burnett writes: “In Russell’s conception, there is both general divine action and special divine action.

Yes, I believe this is co-extensive with Darrel Falk’s “God’s natural activity” and “God’s supernatural activity.”  Now Russell might insist that “special divine action” is reserved only for interaction with humanity, but I doubt that he has any proof texts to back this up.  It could be that “special divine action” was used in natural history long before humanity appeared on the scene.  ID theorists’ suspicions that “special divine action” has occurred isn’t just based on the fact that there are gaps in our understanding of natural history.  It’s that those gaps match up with what look more and more to be intelligent agency.

Bilbo - #70115

May 25th 2012

I should add that Robert John Russell is just another case of someone trying to offer a theological objection to ID.  I haven’t found any convincing theological arguments for or against ID.  But then I haven’t found any convincing theological arguments against Darwinian theory.  I appear to be in that very small minority of people who think that we should just let the empirical evidence do the talking.

Ted Davis - #70129

May 26th 2012


If you see Russell as “just another case of someone trying to offer a theological objection to ID,” then I think you may be using a microscope when binoculars are called for. I realize that ID for you is very important, so you will focus in on anything anyone says on that topic. OK, fair enough, but his position on ID is just one small part of a much larger, coherent picture of divine action based on a great deal of reflection and extensive, interdisciplinary exchanges for many years.

IMO, it would be much more accurate—and fair—to say that Russell’s view of divine action includes an objection to ID that you do not find convincing. The way you put it suggests that Russell’s theory of divine action is motivated by a desire to dismiss ID, when in fact Russell has been thinking about divine action longer than the ID movement has existed.

Bilbo - #70134

May 26th 2012

Hi Ted,

I realize that Russell’s objective encompasses much more than ID.  However, it seems that he begins with the premise that Methodological Naturalism (MN) has or will answer all the questions of how natural history took place.  From there Russell comes up with “special divine action” and “general divine action,” applying the first only to interaction with humanity and the second to the rest of nature.  But MN he never fully justifies MN, and can only insist that special divine action does not apply to natural history if he is able to quote chapter and verse to that effect.  I don’t know of any good verses supporting his conclusion, do you?

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70117

May 25th 2012

My perspective is different.  For me the question is, Does Life/History/the Universe have a Meaning/Purpose?  The Bible says Yes and it is Jesus Christ the Logos, the rational Word of God.

The question next arises, How does God carry out this Meaning/Purpose?  First, there is the true miracle of Creation, which is the basis of all science and reality.  All other “miracles” are miracles of communication.  The word “miracle” in the Bible means “sign,” evidence that God is communicating with people, getting them to pay attention to something very important.   

The Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and Pentecost are miracles of communication.  Other miracles are miracles of deliverance, such as healing and the liberation of the Hebrews from slavery.  Here God communicates the desire and pupose to deliver, heal, and liberate all God’s people, which God will accomplish through Jesus Christ.

Rusell should know that there are several descriptions of the Exodus event in Scripture and oldest of them portray an event less spectacular, yet still effective, than the scene found in Exodus 14, which seems to be the final edit.  I think that it is fair to say that YHWH sent Moses back to Egypt who with Aaron and the help of YHWH compelled Pharoah to free the Hebrews and then defeated the Egyptian chariots at the Reed Sea. 

The exact details have been lost in the fog of history, but the outlines are clear and are in accordance with God’s Saving Purpose, found in Jesus Christ.  The issue then is not intervention, but Teleology or Jesus, the Logos. 

Science does not like teleology, because it feels that philosophy/theology used teleology to limit science in the past.  I expect that there is good teleology and bad teleology, just as there is good and bad everything else, including science.  Science needs to give good teleology a chance.  Afterall it has found the antropic principle to be a useful theory and ecology does work.     


Jon Garvey - #70118

May 26th 2012

I’m not persuaded that Russell still has the right “categories” - or if he does whether he’s fitting the right actions into them.

If NIODA is a way of limiting God’s “law-breaking” interventions, it hardly helps to put answered prayer in the second category - there being a billion or two people praying at a time. If God answered only part of the time (hardly a Christian perspective) he’d still be intervening far more than in any speciation events.

Teleology (in the transcendant sense) implies the input of information, whether or not that’s via quantum fluctuations. Is there anything in science that actually demonstrates that the input of information per se violates any conservation of energy or mass principles - or indeed any other laws.

I read something by Thomas Nagel to the effect that “decisions” made by organisms are orthogonal to physical laws - in other words, that the information determining those decisions is completely independent of law, though not violating it. That would seem to be a far more general locus for God’s government than Russell’s quantum stuff.

Ted Davis - #70128

May 26th 2012


Russell would probably agree with Nagel about the “orthogonality” of decisions made by organisms. I think you have it backwards, however, in seeing that as “a far more general locus for God’s government than Russell’s quantum stuff.” Here’s why: *everything* in the universe is a physical system, but only a tiny fraction of things are organisms. Nearly everything that happens in the universe does not involve a decision by an organism. So, I would say, Russell’s view is actually far more general than the one you put forth.

Jon Garvey - #70133

May 26th 2012

Ted, you misunderstand my point about Nagel (quoted in Barham, actually, whose subject was also teleology in organisms).

I was suggesting that if the decisions of organisms are orthogonal to natural law, then maybe any decisions made by God (in the sense of information input into the Universe) might be as well. My point was that if that were the case, God’s “Non-interventional” activity need not be limited to the bisophere. It might extend, perhaps, to the orbital oscillations of earthbound asteroids, to cite a previously-raised example.

That aside, it still seems from this article that Russell gives to science with one hand, allowing directed biology without impinging on natural law, and then takes away with the other to make way for miracles and answered prayer. If the latter are admissible in a causally closed Universe (ignoring the quantum element), then why not in biology or in any other sphere of providence, especially once one has rejected as false the dichotomy between “natural” and “supernastural”?

After all, is not the prayer “Give us our daily bread” closely parallel to the provision for the beasts in Psalm 104?

donaldmorey - #70275

June 5th 2012

Thanks for the dichotomy phrase.  I embrace a dichotomy between “natural” and “supernatural.”

According to the anti-Genesis 1:1 crowd, all that we experience with our senses, microscopes, and telescopes—call it matter and energy—has existed without beginning.  Einstein threw a reluctantly accepted curve ball at spatial infinity, but how do we wrap our minds around matter and energy existing without beginning?As some take comfort in a “theory” status of evolution, I cling to the“theorem” status of Einstein’s anti-creation bias.

In a natural state, the universe would be nothing. Nothing comes from nothing.

What we usually call natural in the broadest sense—all that we experience with our senses and devices—I consider unnatural, or supernatural, because they are something from nothing, violating what would be the natural state.

The supernatural is sufficiently powerful to claim victories over the natural, such as creation of the universe and the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but the powerful pull of the natural is not vanquished nor denied its own negative victories.

The pull of the natural—its rebellion against the unnatural (supernatural)—perhaps finds expression in sin and disasters, manmade and otherwise, events and conditions we may blame on Satan.

The supernatural vs. natural conflict may be the source of, or synonymous with, other bi-polarities: God vs. Satan, creation vs. nothingness, light vs. dark, good vs. evil.  Life vs. death?
Roger A. Sawtelle - #70145

May 27th 2012

Ted wrote,

Nearly everything that happens in the universe does not involve a decision by an organism.

What happens on earth’s moon?  I expect more things happen in someone’s life in a week then happens on the moon in a year. 

Life on earth is much more complex than existence outside the earth.  Thus I believe that it is true that the number of events that take place in the biosphere is comparable to the number of events that take place in the rest of the universe.

Quantity is not everything.  Quality is important.  If as the antropic principle indicates the universe was set up to make life possible, that is with this Teleos in mind, then the physical points to the biological, not the other way around. 

Science is oriented toward the physical, which distorts it vision of what is real.  Ideas and purpose are just as real as matter/energy, even though they are more visible on earth than in the rest of the universe.

In addition to those arguments humanity lives in a particular enviromental niche, which is not primarily physical.  It involves the physical world of inorganic things, the organic world of plants and animals, and the human world that we have created for ourselves.  This is where Noether’s theorem comes in.  

Like it or not, this is where we are called to live and make our home and create the kind of community that reflects the Kingdom of God.  This is the Meaning and Purpose of Life which calls for our decision to Love God and all God has created and love others as ourselves.    


Roger A. Sawtelle - #70126

May 26th 2012


Linking teleology with information, which makes sense to me, puts it in line with the new science of information, rather than the old clunky science of particles.  Of course DNA is informational too so it brings together teleology with evolution and the bio sciences. 

Does the fact that the amount of information existing about the universe is growing geometrically mean that the law of nature is violated?  

Good thought.

Bilbo - #70132

May 26th 2012

i’m testing to see if I can post a comment.

Bilbo - #70135

May 26th 2012

I replied to Ted up above, but I’ll reply to Roger down here. 

Aristotelian teleology taught that everything has a final cause or end toward which it is directed.  Modern biologists hope that Aristotle’s theory applies to the origin of life—that nature is somehow directed toward the origin and evolution of life.  But so far the evidence seems to suggest that nature is no more directed toward that end than toward the end of producing laptop computers.  It seems to require much more additional information from God in order to produce life.  I don’t care whether we call it a miracle, special divine action, God’s supernatural activity, or any other label you wish to apply to it.  The point is that something different seems to be going on in bringing life into being, and probably its different species, than we see nature able to do with other things, such as producing stars, galaxies, planets, asteroids, water, or what have you.

GJDS - #70140

May 26th 2012


I agree that Aristotelian ‘belief’, especially of substance/being and first principles derived from this (and causes) is the source of error in scientism. The problem with interventionism is that it takes another form of ‘filling in our ignorance’ with either philosophical error or theological error. Thus, when the beginning of life becomes difficult to deal with scientifically, atheists construct a philosophy of emmergence, which claim that the laws of science they depend on will emmerge out of nature. Likewise, our inability to understand the universe of objects and energy is obvious, so we may turn to God to ‘intervene’. The problem is both due to Aristotle and Plato (with Hellenstic arguments about the one and many) that insists our conceptions of law provide the explanations we are looking for. It is also theological in that we equate faith and belief in God with how well we can understand science, philosophy, psycology etc. 

In fairness to all of us, it is difficult to accurately know all things about the origins of life, complexity of organisms and the estounding inter-related aspects of the ecological marvel we call planet earth.

Bilbo - #70153

May 28th 2012


I agree that “it is difficult to accurately know all things about the origins of life” and the “complexity of organisms,” but science is our attempt of “filling in our ignorance” of these things.  We should hold in mind that the conclusions we reach in science are always tentative and subject to correction.  I would include ID in this assessment.  So what looks today to ID proponents as good evidence of activity of an intelligent agent may be explained as the product of non-intelligent forces tomorrow.  Likewise, what looked like the kludgy outcome of Darwinian processes today, may look like the ingenious invention of a great mind tomorrow. 

Therefore, I don’t think we should base our religious faith on ID.  We should just view it as one more way to try to understand Nature.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70144

May 27th 2012

Why should teleology be limited to one explanation anymore than gravity limited to one explanation such as Newton’s.

Nature has produced the laptop computer.  How might be a mystery, but the fact that it did against all odds indicates to me that there is some basis for Teleos.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70150

May 28th 2012


I think that now I see our problem.  Some people assuming that Nature is rational think that Nature itself is sufficient to explain the emergence of life. 

The question I have for them is, On what basis can we expect nature to to rational?  Monod & Co. have pointed out that nature is composed of matter/energy which cannot think.  They say that Nature is not an agent who can think and have meaning and purpose. 

I agree wholeheartedly, and yet it is clear that nature based on natural laws is rational, and if rational needs to have Teleos, Purpose and Meaning.  The rationality of nature does not come from within nature, since it cannot think.  It does not come from humanity because we did not create nature.  It has to come from beyond Nature, from God the Source of the universe. 

Thus based on the arguments of Scientism, if the universe is rational, then this points to God as its Source.  What Scientism or Physicalism says in response is that the universe is not rational and has no meaning and this is clear evidence that God does not exist.

This puts rational humanists in the middle.  They want to affirm that the universe is rational for good reason, while also wanting to say that God is not the Source of the universe.  It also problematic for theistic dualists who want to make God completely separate from nature.      

Bilbo - #70154

May 28th 2012

Hi Roger,

You wrote:  “Nature has produced the laptop computer.”  No, intelligent minds have produced the laptop computer, by means of arranging matter into very specific forms using very deterministic processes.  So there is a chain of causality from the mind to the thing designed.

If you wish to believe that God produced the first living cells by a very deterministic process, whether indirectly through Nature, or directly through miracles, special divine action, or supernatural action, wouldn’t really matter,  Either way, there would be a deterministic chain of causality from a mind to the thing designed.

If you wish to believe that there is no such deterministic chain, but that God has allowed a non-deterministic process to eventually come up with the first cells, then I think we are talking about something other than ID.  But I agree with you that it would still be teleological, and the Univese would still be rational.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #70170

May 29th 2012


I am afraid that I am not used to thinking in ID or non-ID categories.

In my opinion since God created the universe and nature, what the universe and nature produce are directly the produce of nature, hence the laptop computer, because according to evolution humans are a part of nature, and indirectly a product of God.

God the Father produces the form and structure through the Logos, Jesus Christ, the rational Word of God.  It is the Logos which produced the laws of nature, the forces of nature, Life, evolution, and intelligence, and gives Reality Meaning and Purpose.

“God moves in mysterious way(s), His wonders to perform.”  William Cowper.

God often seems to work directly in a positive, creative manner, but God can also work indirectly using randomness and “natural evil” to accomplish divine purposes.  This is good, because if God could not work this way, how could God work with us humans who are sinners?           

Jamie Semple - #70137

May 26th 2012

This may be something of a pernickety point; but surely some Biblical ‘miracles’ - Christ’s ascension being one that immediately springs to mind - still fall pretty far outside of the realms of quantum indeterminacy, I’d say. How indeed would the ascension appear in a physical sense?

I say this with no real agenda in mind - more curiosity as to how more erudite persons than myself would consider this.

Bilbo - #70155

May 28th 2012

Good question, Jamie.  I’m curious, also.

Ted Davis - #70214

May 31st 2012

Russelll’s various categories, including “more than a miracle” for the Resurrection, make it clear (at least to me) that (in his picture) God does sometimes act in ways that we would traditionally call “miraculous.” I thought this was sufficiently clear from this series of 3 posts, but perhaps not.

GJDS - #70167

May 28th 2012

Reply to Bilbo #70153

We agree on how we should view faith; I guess my interest is motivated more by how science is used in these discussions. Outside the USA the discussion is more broad as aetheists try to use science as authority against Faith, and evolution as their main weapon. The general response is that of evolutionism rather than a scientific theory (but none of these cahps will admit to this); nonetheless, it is important to understand where Darwinism and neo-Darwinism stand within the broad framework of the Sciences. While evolution may be used as any other theory or working hypothesis, its generality and broad sweep renders it susceptible to manipulation by various groups. We can discuss many examples of this and how each group would counter them.

Thus, why not confine discussions and debates on fundamental matters; these may be questions such as what is a scientific law? what constitutes a proven theorum? how does the theory of evolution stand up to questions which are fundamental to its propositions (such as the origin of life, the fundamental chemistry that would confirm or negate evolutionary concepts, as for example if nature can produce optically pure isomers, and so on).

It is this mix of hypothesis, science, philosophy, speculation and theology, that I find curious to say the least. It interesting to discuss the broad areas that interest most of us, but I find it somewhat disturbing when the authority of science is used in the way it is. I am also learning that theological and philosophical traditions have built up over some time on this area, so I expect to learn a great deal more from discussions of these matters on this web page.

melanogaster - #70198

May 30th 2012

“Outside the USA the discussion is more broad as aetheists try to use science as authority against Faith, and evolution as their main weapon.”

I think you’re imagining the evolution as a weapon part. It’s some Christians who have chosen evolution.

“The general response is that of evolutionism rather than a scientific theory (but none of these cahps will admit to this);…”

What do these words mean in this context? Please be precise.

“…nonetheless, it is important to understand where Darwinism and neo-Darwinism stand within the broad framework of the Sciences.”

Please define these terms rigorously and I will help you to understand.

“While evolution may be used as any other theory or working hypothesis, its generality and broad sweep renders it susceptible to manipulation by various groups.”

Real scientists test specific components of evolutionary theory. Please try to avoid conflating “evolution” (a phenomenon) with “evolutionary theory” (which is about the mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of evolution).

“Thus, why not confine discussions and debates on fundamental matters; these may be questions such as what is a scientific law?”

I’d settle for you using fundamental terms in a rigorous way. I won’t hold my breath.

“… what constitutes a proven theorum?”

All conclusions in science are provisional. That means that nothing is considered to be proven. That’s why science is so powerful!

“… how does the theory of evolution stand up to questions which are fundamental to its propositions (such as the origin of life,”

You haven’t stated its alleged propositions, but I know that the origin of life is in no way fundamental.

” the fundamental chemistry that would confirm or negate evolutionary concepts, as for example if nature can produce optically pure isomers, and so on).”

I don’t see how the natural production of optically pure isomers confirms or negates anything about evolutionary theory or concepts.

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