The purpose of theistic evolution

Dr. Joshua Swamidass, a theistic evolutionist, joined us recently at TSZ. I think the following comment of his will lead to some interesting and contentious discussion and is worthy of its own thread:

Third, if we drop “Darwinian” to just refer to the current modern synthesis of evolutionary theory, you are right that the scientific account does not find any evidence of direction or planning. I agree with you here and do not dispute this.
 
So the question becomes, really, is it possible that God could have created a process (like evolution) with a purposeful intent that science could not detect? I think the answer here is obvious. Of course He could. In fact, I would say, unless He wanted us to discern His purpose, we could not.
 
In my view, then, evolution has a purpose in creating us. Science itself cannot uncover its purpose. I find that out by other means.

570 thoughts on “The purpose of theistic evolution

  1. keiths: Therefore you can never look at a sequence and declare, based on the sequence alone, that it was definitely produced either deterministically or randomly.

    Indeed! You can’t know the history merely from a snapshot in time. Have you changed your position?

  2. Alan Fox,

    No Alan, you are introducing a new “unnamed” possibility, and claiming as long as you can suggest that there is an unknown possibility, then all comparisons of one or another become obsolete.

    What is the limit in such logic? If we claim something is either correct or not, or exists or doesn’t or is up or down, or left or right, as long as you allow in another possibility to be named later, you rule out entirely the concept of logical premises. There can never be only two premises.

  3. fifthmonarchyman: The Christian God can’t do anything that is against his nature. So what he does is always consistent and logical

    So, somehow his nature was defined for him in a way that he cannot change? Who did that all-powerful feat? In your worldview such specified information cannot happen by itself.

  4. keiths:

    What does that have to do with what swamidass said?

    Alan:

    I was agreeing that we are (at that point in the discussion) in the realm of theology.

    That accounts for your first word:

    Exactly.

    From the second word on, what you wrote has nothing to do with what swamidass said:

    Those of us lucky enough to live in a free society should support and nurture the values of true secularism. One’ s personal beliefs should be sacrosanct and inviolable. Of course, any public expression of those ideas should be open to challenge and criticism. I am perfectly at ease with anyone following their own personal beliefs; it is the assumption of religious authority to promote or force those views on to others that I object to.

  5. But an omnipotent god can do anything! How can you say she can’t?

    Apparently Alan hasn’t been through the “Can God make a rock too heavy for him to lift?” phase. Better late than never, I guess.

  6. keiths:

    Any specified finite sequence can be produced deterministically (e.g. by a finite state machine) or randomly (though you might have to wait a very long time for it to show up). Therefore you can never look at a sequence and declare, based on the sequence alone, that it was definitely produced either deterministically or randomly.

    Alan:

    Indeed! You can’t know the history merely from a snapshot in time. Have you changed your position?

    No, but you’re still confused by it.

  7. keiths:
    walto:

    Be careful there.It isn’t that random events are uncaused, it’s that they aren’t determined by their causes.If I measure the spin of an electron, I’m causing the outcome — a measurement result — but I’m not determining that it will be spin up versus spin down.

    Any specified finite sequence can be produced deterministically (e.g. by a finite state machine) or randomly (though you might have to wait a very long time for it to show up).Therefore you can never look at a sequence and declare, based on the sequence alone, that it was definitely produced either deterministically or randomly.

    Good points, all. Thanks.

  8. keiths: Apparently Alan hasn’t been through the “Can God make a rock too heavy for him to lift?” phase.Better late than never, I guess.

    Has the omnipotence paradox been resolved or should we dismiss it as a semantic exercise?

  9. keiths:
    dazz,

    No, because it’s possible for human behavior to be deterministic even if the world as a whole isn’t.

    Suppose that a) God actively futzes with the world, and b) that spontaneous and random events also occur.Such a world is obviously not deterministic, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the humans within it are behaving non-deterministically.

    As long as God is not futzing internally with a person (like the inane “hardening Pharaoh’s heart” stuff in the Bible), and as long as random events are not occurring within the person, and as long as the laws of physics are themselves deterministic, then the person’s behavior is deterministic in the following quite strong sense:it’s a function of nothing but the person’s internal state and the “inputs” from the environment, and it’s predictable in principle from them.

    So compatibilism applies in that case even if God is messing around and pulling crap like making donkeys talk.

    Oh, I wasn’t referring to free will, should have clarified that. What I meant is that if this god either knows things timelessly or doesn’t know them at all, then it seems to follow that can’t know things or put himself within space-time, because of his timeless nature. Incarnation shouldn’t be possible for such an entity. A bit like the classical theistic god that is immaterial, timeless, imperceptible etc…

  10. Fair Witness: So, somehow his nature was defined for him in a way that he cannot change? Who did that all-powerful feat? In your worldview such specified information cannot happen by itself.

    God is his nature. It was not defined for him it is him

    peace

  11. dazz: What I meant is that if this god either knows things timelessly or doesn’t know them at all, then it seems to follow that can’t know things or put himself within space-time, because of his timeless nature.

    You do know that the Christian God is a Trinity and therefore can have a temporal as well as a timeless nature.

    peace

  12. Alan Fox: Has the omnipotence paradox been resolved or should we dismiss it as a semantic exercise?

    What omnipotence paradox? Are you one of those people who think God can both exist and not exist because God is omnipotent?

  13. dazz:

    Oh, I wasn’t referring to free will, should have clarified that.

    When you use the word ‘compatibilist’, people are going to infer that you’re talking about free will:

    Do you guys agree with this intuition that all these compatibilist efforts push God more and more towards the deistic side of things (A god that can’t interfere with nature) and that can’t possibly reconciled with incarnations, miracles, resurrections, etc..?

  14. dazz:

    What I meant is that if this god either knows things timelessly or doesn’t know them at all, then it seems to follow that can’t know things or put himself within space-time, because of his timeless nature. Incarnation shouldn’t be possible for such an entity.

    If the world is deterministic, it isn’t a problem. Timeless knowledge isn’t any better than temporal knowledge in that case, so carrying it into the world doesn’t create any issues.

    If there’s genuine randomness, then at the very least God would have to ‘forget’ the timeless knowledge before incarnating.

    I know that William Lane Craig believes that God entered into time “when” he created the universe. If I get some time (heh), I’ll see if I can figure out how he deals with the foreknowledge issue. I’m pretty sure he’s not a compatibilist, so it ought to be an issue for him.

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