BreakPoint | Tom Gilson | Aug. 21, 2009
If God kept arbitrarily interfering in nature as Haldane and Krauss imagine, we could never distinguish His message, the signal, from the noise of nature’s irregularities. To reveal Himself to humans—to communicate—He must break into nature sometimes, but He must do so rarely. There must be an ordinary course of events, so that we can discern what is out of the ordinary. If miracles happened everywhere every day, they would not be miracles at all. They would communicate nothing, and thus they would not serve God’s relational purposes.
Further, God intended for humans to be responsible moral agents, for which we must be able to judge in advance the likely results of our actions. That would be quite impossible in a world of constant chaotic supernatural intervention.
Suppose that on a few random days every decade, every vegetable were poison. Could we be held accountable for poisoning our children on one of those days? If we could not predict the results of our actions, we could hardly be responsible for them. This, too, would not serve God’s purposes.
God intends also that humans be able to learn from experience—that if we drop a seed, it will fall; that if we cultivate it properly, it will grow; that if we eat good things, we will thrive; that if we eat poisons, we will get sick or die.
This ties in with God’s intention that we be responsible moral agents. We need to learn that if we feed another person good foods, that will be good for them; but if we give them poison, they will quite predictably get sick or die. Again, chaos of the sort Krauss envisions would clearly work against God’s purposes.
With that in mind, the irony deepens. For what is science but systematized learning from experience? God made the world friendly for science, not for the sake of science alone, but to accomplish the whole scope of His purposes for us.
Judeo-Christianity’s view of creation is unique among the world’s religions and philosophies. One large group of creation stories has the world beginning with an eternal dualism of mind (or spirit) and matter. The mind battles to contain and restrain unruly matter, with only partial success. Plato’s view was much like that. Another large group considers matter to be a kind of emanation from spirit, so that matter is actually spirit in another manifestation, sometimes even an illusory one.
The first view leads to no confidence in the world’s rationality, since mind’s mastery over creation is weak. The second is the picture of animized nature. A third version or origins, that of modern secular science, removes mind from origins completely. What early natural philosopher, looking at nature as such an essentially mindless thing and never having seen science succeeding, would have thought to look for a rational order in nature?
Only in the first chapters of Genesis do we have an account of a creation that is fully ruled by its Creator’s mind, yet remains separate from it: rationally ordered, but not animized. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that this all-important basis on which science was planted comes from the same biblical passage that scientists today love so much to scorn?
God’s desire to relate with a world of humans, to give us the power of moral agency and the ability to learn, and to make His occasional interventions meaningful, leads Him to let His creation run its ordinary course in ordinary times. Scholars and students at a Catholic cathedral school figured that out more than 800 years ago.
God and science do mix.
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