Friday, November 28, 2014

The clockwork universe

While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease (Gen 8:22).
The scientific method treats the world as a closed system. A continuum of physical cause and effect. Nothing from the "outside" bypasses the chain of cause and effect. 
And that's the basis for induction. The present resembles the past, and vice versa. And that, in turn, forms the basis for sciences of origins (e.g. cosmology, geology, paleontology, paleoanthropology). 
And there's some truth to that. In the Biblical worldview, nature generally operates as if it's a closed system. Ceteris paribus, there's nothing wrong with presuming continuity. 
And yet, according to the Biblical worldview, nature is actually an open system. Open to agents (e.g. God, angels, demons, ghosts, sorcerers, miracle-workers) who can, and sometimes do, bypass the causal continuum. Open to the introduction of causes outside the ordinary chain of physical cause and effect. 
As Christians, we must make allowance for the possibility, and actuality, that induction breaks down at unpredictable points along the line. A miracle both interrupts and restarts the process. The natural order resumes after the miracle. But it resumes at a different point than if the miracle had not occurred. A miracle may not mere restart, but jumpstart or reset the process. Advance the outcome or change the outcome. Take miraculous healing. 
That's not some ad hoc consideration. It's fundamental to the Christian worldview. To Christian supernaturalism and dualism. 
And that's something which theistic or deistic evolutionists refuse to take into account. They don't take that seriously. They operate as though nature really is a closed system. Indeed, some of them think that's the case. They are really back to the clockwork universe.  
There are scientists with a very literal-minded view of reality. Victor Stenger is a case in point. They have a rule-bound mindset. They think nature always follows the rules. Indeed, they think nature ought to follow the rules. As though nature made them a promise. If a miracle happens, then nature broke its promise. A miracle is "cheating." They indulge in that childish personification of nature. 


  1. Good post!

    Also, some secular scientists subscribe to the multiverse. Yet isn't it possible at least some subset of universes within the multiverse would be universes with miracles? If so, then what precludes our universe from possibly being such a universe?

  2. By the way, here's an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' Miracles:

    "If this week I put a thousand pounds in the drawer of my desk, add two thousand next week and another thousand the week thereafter, the laws of arithmetic allow me to predict that the next time I come to my drawer, I shall find four thousand pounds. But suppose when I next open the drawer, I find only one thousand pounds, what shall I conclude? That the laws of arithmetic have been broken? Certainly not! I might more reasonably conclude that some thief has broken the laws of the state and stolen three thousand pounds out of my drawer. One thing it would be ludicrous to claim is that the laws of arithmetic make it impossible to believe in the existence of such a thief or the possibility of his intervention. On the contrary, it is the normal workings of those laws that have exposed the existence and activity of the thief."