Chance & Providence

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    McMullin, Ernan

     (292K)

    Cosmic Purpose and the Contingency of Human Evolution

    "Does God anticipate the future by extrapolating from a knowledge of the present, as we do? Does God have to rely on the predictability of a particular physical process in order to make use of that process to achieve a Divine end? Is God's relationship to past, present, and future sufficiently like ours for these analogies to go through? This is the topic I want to address, not in the context of early-universe cosmology where the processes involved in the first primitive stages of the universe's expansion are barely understood, but rather in the context of evolutionary accounts of human origins where the fortuitous character of the outcome has been debated since Darwin first proposed his theory of natural selection a century and a half ago. The role played by chance in that theory seemed from the beginning to call in question the teleological character of the overall evolutionary process. Yet if this be so, how is one to reconcile it with the traditional Biblical understanding of human origins?"
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    Montzingo, Lloyd

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    Random Variables and a Sovereign God

    "Are random variables just models created by mathematicians to explain otherwise presently unexplainable phenomena in the real world; or are they analogs of events in the real world which are truly random? I have considered this question as a mathematician who, having taught probability and statistics for 20 years, continues to be interested in the empirical foundations of mathematics. But I am equally interested in the question as a Christian mathematician attempting to integrate my faith with my discipline. If there are random events, does that contradict the Biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty? In this paper, I take a brief look at the history of conflict between the concepts of chance and divine activity. Then I discuss some evidence for randomness in the universe, after which I present philosophical and theological views from four different scientists on this subject. Finally I conclude with some questions and some observations concerning those questions."
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    Smith, Albert E.

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    Does God Play at Dice?

    "For most of us there is a tension between the naturalistic and the theistic view of the relations between things and events. For the naturalist the universe is a vast system or process, self-contained and self-consistent, with every thing and every event explicable (in principle) in terms of other things and other events belonging to the system. The theist holds to the idea of a God who is apart from the world and yet on whom the world depends for its existence and to whose will it is responsive. The tension, if I am correct, is part of the cultural heritage of Western man. It is particularly acute for those who subscribe to theism and practice crafts, like those of the scientist or historian, primarily concerned with the development of naturalistic explanations."
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    Stening, Robert J.

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    God’s Statistical Universe

    "The universe is not completely predictable, but contains many uncertain events, which follow statistical laws. The whole evolutionary process is driven by statistics. Haught's ‘process theology’, is discussed, in which the future is uncertain, even to God, but offers promise. Two common attitudes, of blind trust in God, and the earth as a ‘soul school’, are examined and found to be common in popular Christian literature. The existence of uncertainty is seen as a prerequisite for the exercise of faith as God requires. Some ideas are advanced of how evangelicals and process theologians might learn from each other."