Tuesday, February 8, 2011

God's Creativity: Simply "Letting Be."

Yesterday I watched a YouTube video in which a very sincere Franciscan brother made his case for the theory of intelligent design. For those who are unfamiliar with this theory, it is very basically a hypothesis that asserts that because the world is so seemingly well ordered, following certain patterns and laws, one must necessarily come to the conclusion that it was "designed" by an exceedingly intelligent being (God). What this theory suggests is that God drew up something akin to a "master plan" or "divine blueprint" prior to the bursting forth of the universe and that everything now is simply unfolding according to this pattern.

While this theory seems very attractive, straightforward, and common sensical, it poses some serious problems in light of scripture and Catholic theology. To begin with, the creation account in the first chapter of Genesis has God intimately involved with the unfolding of creation and simply "letting it be." In Genesis Chapter 1, verse 20, God says, "let the water team with an abundance of creatures." In verse 24 of the same chapter, God says, "Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures." These verses don't at all depict creation unfolding according to a particular design or blueprint but, to the contrary, they conjure up an image of God infusing creation with it's own creative capacities (indicated by the word, "let" which implies freedom and spontaneity) and than watching things unfold with great delight.

The problems that the theory of intelligent design poses for theology is that it is fundamentally non-Trinitarian. In other words, a God who "draws up a blueprint" and "designs" things to the minutest detail cannot also be the God who journeys with creation in Word, Spirit, and, finally, flesh (this would be unnecessary and superfluous). Scripture tells us that all things were created through the Word and that the Spirit is also intimately involved in God's creative act. What this means is that creation has it's own freedom and spontaneity that God chooses precisely NOT to design or control. The reason for this? God's "letting be" allows creation to become itself (most fully in the human person) and to acquire the requisite freedom to return God's love and become God's very own partner in love and freedom. This doesn't sound like a God who draws up blueprints or intricate designs but a God who is willing to risk all for the sake of the dignity of the other and for the sake of love. Albert Einstein once said in regards to God's creative act that, "God doesn't play dice." This is akin to the god proposed by the theory of intelligent design. However, if we take the Trinity seriously, maybe we should revise this saying along the lines of, "God does play dice, but loads them in the direction of freedom and love." Pat, TOR


Doug Renner said...

Yes, what today is being called the theory of "Intelligent Design" is burdened with more baggage by its proponents than the classic and very simple "argument by design" for the existence of an intelligent Designer.

Einstein's assertion that "God does not play dice with the universe" reflected the unacceptability in his mind of the tenet proposed in Quantum Mechanics that the behavior of electrons was governed by a randomness which could only be approached with statistics. Einstein believed that there must be hidden variables which influence their behavior. The famous response to Einstein's assertion was a quip attributed to Quantum Mechanics pioneer Neils Bohr, who said that Albert should "Quit telling God what to do!"

More recently, an entire mathematical field of chaos theory has emerged, and its pioneering mathemetician R> Feigenbaum once again directly addressed this question, "Does God play dice with the universe?"

His conclusion is that yes He does - but they are loaded dice. This conclusion was based on studies showing that when systems, whether they be simple or complex, make a transition from order to chaos, there are certain methods of transition such as period doubling which are favored.

In another field entirely, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) Lab amassed during the decades of its operation, a database of millions of trial runs of various hardware random number generators wherein the conscious intention of the operator of the device was shown to consistently have a small but significant influence on the stream of otherwise random numbers produced by the generators.

Of course, none of this constitutes any kind of surprise for people of faith. What it does do is show that anyone who in the 21st century would assert that the universe is random, that our lives are meaningless, or that there exists no material proof of the paranormal is simply out of date.

Doug Renner said...

[Edit: The name above should read "M. Feigenbaum," and he is a "mathematical physicist"]