God and Chance (Evolutionists Only)


#1

I know, i know, another thread about evolution :slight_smile: And I’d appreciate it, so as not to get off track, that no anti-evolutionists posts anything in here against evolutiion:D

Alrighty, this is probably going to become heated, but I must ask it cause it bothers me and I can never seem to get a straight answer.

I agree God willed for us to be here, anotherwords He *wanted *us to be His children, He *desired *the earth to exist. But does chance (yes that aweful word) play into His creation at all?

I’ll make it more clear, did God, using His power DIRECTLY, guide and create every single piece of the physical universe, and is still creating as new spiecies continue to evolve and whatever else may be going on out there in space?

If “yes,” then I stand confused. I’m not trying to be rebelious to the Church, not at all. I’m trying to understand.

Here’s the confusion for me, if God has specialy directed every piece of matter and energy, and still does, doesn’t that take away our freedom? And wouldn’t it seem to say that God, well, enjoys killing off species and causing things to suffer? That’s what you get with evolution if told to believe that He guides and creates everything specifically and specially. I’ll give some example that I’ve given before but never really got any answers for:

**EXAMPLE #ONE: **Let’s take the cat, that “plays” with a mouse, torturing it slowly to death, and sometimes never even eats it. Did God plant those instincts in cats?

**EXAMPLE #TWO: **the Ichneumonidae wasps? The mother wasp inserts a paralyzing chemical into the nervous system of a caterpillar and then places her eggs inside the still-living host, where they hatch and then gradually devour the paralyzied caterpillar from the inside. The hatched baby wasps emerge with preprogrammed instincts to consume the internal organs of the caterpillar in a sequence that keeps their caterpillar host aliveas long as possible.

**EXAMPLE #THREE: **Or how about the Hanuman Langur monkeys in Northern India? They have a mating system what biologists call “harem polygyny.” Dominant males have exclusive sexual access to a group of adult females, as long as they can keep other males away. Sooner or later a stronger male usurps the harem and the defeated must join must join the celibate outcasts. The new male shows his “love” for his new wives by trying to kill their unweaned infants. For every successful killing a mother stops lactating and goes into estrous. Deprived of her nursing baby a female soon starts ovulating. Then she accepts the advances of her baby’s "murderer, and he becomes the father of her next child.

**EXAMPLE #FOUR: **All of us evolutionists know about mutations, and how in bateria thousands of them happen all the time, and this is a great–if not THE great wonder in evolution, that after a while the “right” mutation shall occur, be better fit for its surroundings, and outlast the others. Now, is this God’s **personal **act right before our very eyes? When scientists are doing experiments, observing mutations in labratories, hoping evolution will work for the better, is God causing all of those faulty mutations–a number reaching well over a hundred thousand, then decides to direct a more “proper” one to make His creature more fit for the enviorment? Is that God’s work before our very eyes? If so, why all the hundreds of mutations? Why not just ONE? It seems that something else is occuring here, yes that aweful word, “chance.” Perhaps “chance” is God’s tool afterall. Perhaps it’s meant as a purpose of freedom for our sake, and even the universe’s. Instead of having God directly be responsible for killing thousands upon thousands of creatures just to evolve into other ones. Or is death and suffering part of His plan, and I’m not being sarcastic neither :slight_smile:

Before I get blown to smitherines by all you, my sisters and brothers, does not ANYTHING I said make ANY sense at all? And please understand this is not a dogmatic belief within me, it’s something at the back of my mind, debating within myself.

Perhaps God brought the universe into existense and created the four fundamental forces essential for life, or even MEANING:, gravitational, electromagnetism, strong nuclear and weak nuclear. Perhaps God then at some point released His will, TO A CERTAIN DEGREE, so that His tool “chance” took over, which in a way is still a guide, but leaves creation open to freedom. For how can evolution be entirely random, if certain sophisticated end points are predictible? Evolution is like the path of a water molecule making its way down the side of a mountain–unpredictible on a small scale, but certainly not without a general direction.

I know the word “chance” bothers many Christians, because it seems to remove intentionality from the work of God’s creation. Needless to say, I don’t see it that way at all, and this is one of the themes Kenneth Miller talks about in his new
book called “Only a Theory - Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul.” In brief, in one of the chapters he addresses this question and suggest that the understand we often have of evolution being entirely “random” isn’t accurate at all. Rather, the evolutionary process is built into the fabric of matter and the fundamental laws of the universe - making the evolution of sentient beings (like us) a natural consequence of the material world. I know this for a fact cause I have recently talked with mr. Miller.

Perhaps God acts in way, intervenes in with us in ways that preverse our own freedom, allowing us to reap the rewards and consequences of our own free will.

So, how much am I going to get beaten up? :slight_smile: I’m seriously curious though to what you pro-evolutionists, like Phil Vaz think about this. To a certain extant, it’s a little different than orthodox Church teaching, right?

But if God is in control of EVERYTHING, then that takes away free will and we are nothing but puppets. It’s an unsolvable paradox.


#2

Well, based on my faith, God is directly involved with everything. Did He guide everything? I don’t know if guide is the word I would use, but it may be appropriate. I just don’t think that “guide” is the same to us as it is to Him since for Him there is no future or past.

Chance is our way of defining that which we cannot predict exactly. That isn’t an issue for God. I think we will never understand how that works, at least in this life.

Peace

Tim


#3

There is nothing outside of the will of God, and even chance events are directly caused by God or else they couldn’t even exist. Likewise, I’m directly caused by God every instant of my existence, as is the wasp that stings me; this is an aspect of God’s omnipresence. What we call chance is simply the natural events that arise outside of concious direction on a human level, but that doesn’t mean that God does not place the natural directions into the universe. All things are from God, including the natural inclinations (both living and non-living) which lead to chance.

Incidently, this means that God doesn’t have to miraculously intervene in creation for chance to lead to HIs design. Evolution is caused by God, but not by way of miraculous changes to the natural course of chemicals and genes.

I’m pressed for time, so I’ll deal with the question of suffering later today.

Peace and God bless!


#4

I’m sorry, i’m a little slow in the head, :slight_smile: but i don’t really understand what you mean.

When my friend and I flip a coin, and it lands on heads and i win the last slice of pumpkin pie, did God will that event? Was e controling the movement so as to cause me to win? Or was it chance, something of His creation, but something that doesn’t act upon His will? Though He can intervene whenever He chooses.

I understand the reason for human suffering, but this is different than the way nature and evolution has always been. Why must there be 150,000 mutations in a bacteria until the 150,001 mutation gets it “right?” Was God doing that the entire time? Do you see what I mean?

I can’t see it making sense to say that He controls all aspects and yet we have freedom.


#5

I thought this thread would spawn like wild fire, hmmm, interesting. Oh well.


#6

I’ll take a crack at it. Though I’m sure there are those here who can (and will) do a better job of it than I will. I’ll give you my perspective, and how I came to peace with it…

Yes, chance plays a part…but only a small one I think.

No. I believe he created every single piece, or ‘knew’ what would be created because He planned for it to be created - sooner or later - as a result of His initial ‘stew’ of materials, but did not, does not, ‘guide’ anything into being - He already ‘knew’ beforehand what would be created, and planned for it all to mesh perfectly.

Aren’t we all…:rolleyes:

Yes, I believe he did. He also, in His Mercy, created the instincts of the mouse to go into shock, play dead, and as a result (it would seem, after having witnessed this several hundred times on the farm) not feel anything during the ‘torture’. Kinda like when you get punched - do you feel it right away? Well, with a mouse it’s the same only intensified. They are high-strung, and highly susceptible to stimulation - which means they go into shock easily. The same is true of most every animal. MOST – not all.

For example - it wasn’t known until recently ( I first heard about it back in the 70’s) that Deer had vocal cords and made noise. Hunters never heard them wail or scream, same with rabbits, and several other game animals. Because they never made a sound when wounded or shot and were dying. Adrenaline and shock took over.

Sounds similar to a coma, or anesthetic perhaps. No?
Every animal has it’s place, and purpose on Earth - just like we do. God in His Mercy, provides each with the tools they need to perform their function. I can’t imagine a Loving God allowing a living creature to suffer such, knowing full well the whole time it is being eaten alive.

This is kinda mixing things a little - but it’s the same process. When wolves take down game, not always do they eat it. Wolves are programmed to cull the herd for health - only the old, infirm, or sick get taken down. Not only is this the least amount of energy expense on the part of the wolves - conserving their fat reserves and strength - but it cleanses the herd of the possibility of further animals being infected by any disease, or the weaker genes being passed on to the herd. They also have and use this practice among themselves.

The same is true of the monkeys - and all Gorillas/Baboons/Monkeys in general. The same thing holds true. In their environment - particularly the Gorillas - they have no particularly effective natural predators, except man, so they need to police their own health. Gorillas have been known to go on ‘hunting’ expeditions to other groups of Gorillas, or other Primates, and kill the weakest members.

As a side note - I once saw a monkey teasing a tiger - he knew he was safe and there was no way for the tiger to get him in the trees. So he tormented that poor cat until it left the area. This was on Nat’l geographic. :rotfl: :rotfl: :rotfl:

To be continued


#7

Personally, I believe that God put into place all the ingredients for life. All kinds of life, and that every form of life had a purpose - some as food, some as agents for change (evolution), and some to grow and change (evolve) into the plethora of beauty we have before us now. For example - the failed mutations you mention. Were they really failed? Or were they considered to be failed simply because the expected reaction didn’t happen? Perhaps those failed reactions were meant to be an agent of some other change, or food for an already successful mutation? We just don’t know. I DO know however, that God always knows best - and His ways are not our ways.

Are things still changing - yes, I believe they are.

Even us. Every time a bacteria/virus enters our system, a mutation happens. Sometimes it wins (we get sick) sometimes we do (we don’t) but a change is made either way. Either the virus changes or our immune system does to more effectively battle the virus/bacteria next time.

Our genetics plays a very important role as well. Science has recently discovered that illnesses like Diabetes can be a result of things our Grandparents ate. If they ate well as children/young adults - their grandchildren were more likely to be obese or develop diabetes than if they had had a more restrictive diet when they were children. This was most recently on PBS in my state and is a result of tests done in Iceland, where they have harvest records and health records going back for several hundred years or so.

Stars, planets, galaxies, nebulas, moons, asteroids - all are being formed right now. So are many other things in this world - there are flowers in S.A. that are cross-pollinating and forming new flowers every year. Somehow scientists know this ( I don’t remember who, how they know, or what flowers at this point - I heard about this years ago on a nature program) but all those flowers had been determined to be first time around (new) species rather than species that had spread to the region.

Everything had/has a purpose. Just like we do. I believe everyone has a purpose, whether they know it or not, whether they like it or not. The only choices we have are to accept God/Christ or not, and to willingly or unwillingly perform the function we were put here to do. For instance - say that you are supposed to turn someone to Christ. Say that you are not a Christian at the time. Your negative example could be the push that gets that person into Church. If you are a Christian, again - your example gets that person into Church - perhaps through talking to you - perhaps not. Either way you fulfilled your function.

BANG :smiley:

Did I help at all? I’m sure I forgot things, and maybe made no sense at all in some spots (or overall) I’m putting this into words for the first time. Anybody wanna frag me?

Peace

John


#8

Since I couldn’t go back and expand on the ‘chance’ part of your question - I’ll do another post. :stuck_out_tongue:

Chance I think, for me, denotes disorder. Disorder is something we brought into the world through our choice. Even though God has turned that into order and balance in some cases (like the wolves, for example) this doesn’t equal chance - there is purpose in what the wolves do. Jesus said, somewhere I think in Matthew, that not even a sparrow falls from the tree apart from the will of the Father.

Chance is left to what we choose to do or not do. Willingly or unwillingly however, Gods purpose is still fulfilled through we who caused the disorder in the first place, which brings about order as a whole, in some respects, in the fulfillment of His plan.

Chance is something left to the unimportant - like the flip of a coin for the last piece of pie. Then again, maybe eating that last piece of pie holds you there long enough that that drunk driver doesn’t kill you going home.:shrug:

Chance then, I think, is our choice, and that is that. That is the only thing left to chance in Gods world - our choice.

Does that make any sense?


#9

LOL. Yes you helped much friend. And by the way, thanks for the “BANG.” You obviously blew me up :smiley:


#10

If I were to try and reconcile God and evolution, I would have to default to Aristotlian/Khayyum conceptualization of the all powerful deity.

That is, God knows the main events and the end,but not the details. Seeing how often God is surprised in the Bible, this explination makes the most sense besides the one where God is actually cruel (epicurian question in application).


#11

I would ask you to consider the gardener. Does he control the garden? Did he till the soil? Plant the seed? Fertilize the ground? Pull the weeds? So does he control plant size, shape, and number of vegetables? To some extent the answers are yes, to some extent the answers are no. So is the case of evolution verses intervention.


#12

I think a tentative solution to your problem. Your question seems to run very parallel to the question of evil (it certainly seems to me that you’re asking why God allows or even planned for cruelties to occur in nature).

I think just as evil is the natural consequence of allowing free will, so too are all these distinctive features that have cropped up in evolutionary processes the natural consequence of the physical laws God put in place. So, just as God could remove all evil, but only at the cost of free will, so could God prevent all these cruelties in nature, but at the cost of the laws He put in place.

It kind of goes back to how physicists marvel at how perfect the universal constants and natural laws tend to be, and the observation: if it were any other way, we wouldn’t be here to see how perfect they are.

So it isn’t necessarily chance outside of God’s will versus God willing every cruelty in nature. It is a balancing act. God could a) create a universe with laws so that we could have someplace to function, a place that has strange evolutionary consequences, or b) He could create something else that would not be suitable for us. Just as God could a) create us with free will so that we can truly appreciate Him, but at the risk of evil and losing some souls or b) He could not create us with free will at all, and lose our ability to appreciate Him. And this isn’t to imply any limitations on God; simply put, He cannot create contradictions, and I suspect that somehow forbidding the cruelties of evolution is not consistent with His intentions for us.


#13

The Catholic: Don’t worry, you’re not slow in the head. This is a big philosophical concept to work with, so let me try again in a slighty different way.

In order to better understand what I mean by God being the active force behind all existence, imagine a lightbulb. When the electrical current passes through the lightbulb, it lights up, and when the current is gone the light is gone. Our very existence and being, and that of everything else, is like the light of that lightbulb, and God is like the current. If you remove God’s constant active will and power from anything, it doesn’t just go dark and die, it literally ceases to exist all together. This is because we are literally “made from nothing”; without God willing otherwise, we go back to being what we are at our foundation: nothing.

Now when it comes to God willing things, there’s willing something of necessity, willing something by contingency (i.e. willing something to happen if something else happens, like willing a child to get dessert if they finish their chores), and chance. From our human perspective we can begin to understand willing of necessity (as we necessarily will our own good, even if we have warped ideas about what that good is; a suicidal person wishes good for themselves in dying, but their understanding of good at that moment is limited to ending pain, and not the good of survival) and contingent will (I absolutely will that all people be free, on the contingency that they don’t use that freedom to murder, in which case I will them to be locked away; this latter will doesn’t contradict my contingent will of freedom).

Chance is where it gets sticky for us, because for us “chance” is something beyond our influence. The problem is that, when considering God, we must admit that nothing is outside of His power and influence (remember the lightbulb analogy; even chance events require that God be actively willing those things to exist at that moment, and all moments, or else they simply don’t exist). Chance, then, is for God the willing of things to act according to their nature without Him altering that natural course, but with Him still making that nature, making its direction, and activating its exsistence at all times.

So, while it’s chance that I get struck by lightining, I am willed by God, the lightning is willed by God, and the lightning striking me at that moment happens because God is willing the natural course of lightning to take place. Notice that this is different from God sending down lightning to strike me, but it doesn’t mean that the event is somehow apart from God’s direct activity. From my perspective it is “pure chance” that I happened to be in the natural path of the lightning, but from God’s perspective, who makes lightning work the way it does, and who allows it to act in that way when I’m passing through, chance doesn’t have the sense of being removed from His will.

God not only doesn’t step aside from chance, God can’t step aside from chance without chance simply not occuring; that would be like the electricity stepping away from the lightbulb. God can will a natural direction for things, and this natural direction can be beyond our perspective (I don’t know the positions of all the electrons in the air that cause the lightning to strike right there at that moment), but while this is “pure chance” for us, it has a different meaning from the perspective of God’s will.

As a side note, notice that God’s activity here doesn’t negate free-will on our part. While God must constantly activate us, He can also will that our choices (which, again, He activates along with us in order for them to happen at all) be ours, and that certain things occur contingently. Our wills are a step beyond the simple movements of electrons in lighting, and they are that way because God wills them to be free.

Hope that helps!


#14

The “problem of evil” is a much different question from that of chance, but since you’re proposing a way for chance to explain such things, and I believe a proper understanding of chance prevents such an explaination that removes God from direct and willed participation, I think the problem of evil needs to be addressed in a fresh way.

One thing to keep in mind is that suffering is not necessarily “evil”, and willing suffering doesn’t necessarily mean sadism. I will for a cancer patient to go through the suffering of chemotherapy, not out of sadism, but out of love for them and a hope for their health. I will my children to go through the suffering of growing up, and I will my wife to go through the suffering of childbirth to bring our children. None of these are sadistic desires, on the contrary they are all loving and even self-less.

When we see suffering in the nature, we must consider the overall design at play, and how suffering fits into it. Like a lioness killing an antelope to feed her cubs there is suffering for the purpose of love. Certainly God could design a world in which there was no hunting of antelopes, but then He would also be designing a world in which there are no lions as we know and love them. Our perspective on such a possible universe is very limited, and we don’t know all the factors that go into making a universe one way or another. What we do know is that God does what He does out of a self-giving Love for creation, and everything we see is beautiful in its place and way. There are countless reasons why certain activities that we find abhorent could be allowed, or designed, in nature. Not least of these reasons would be the salvation of our immortal souls, as we watch and learn what we can become if we disregard our higher calling and live like irrational animals. Since the salvation of one immortal, spiritual soul is infinitely greater than the transitional suffering of anything that is purely material, even a million antelopes being killed by lions, showing one soul the brutality of human life without God so that they turn to Him, would be more than proporionate.

I’m not saying that is certainly the reason for such a design and course of nature, but I am saying that even if that was the ONLY reason, it would be sufficient reason to warrant such things, and we can certainly learn in such a way from what we see. There are many, many more answers possible, and likely all of them are true; this is just a simple one that pretty much cuts to the heart of the question, IMO, since you seem so concerned by the brutality and suffering involved in such natural displays.

Peace and God bless!


#15

excellent point


#16

wow, that’s really interesting. so the Lord does not know all?


#17

Yes, that helped alot. Thank you Ghostly. :slight_smile:


#18

Two more points.

One, I’ve read more than once by theistic evolutionists that saying God “designed” us, sometimes can make Him look foolish as a perfect designer. Anotherwords, ducks with webbed feet that do not swim in the water but walk (or stumble) on land their entire life. Human beings knees, how they merely bend one direction, and are located between our ankles and lower backs. And backs as well, how the reason we have back problems is because we’re not truly adapted to walking upright. Surely a perfect designer could think of something better.

but the more i think about this i think those individuals were countering against the ID movement and not God’s creation in general. Besides, we have to live and learn, count on one another, and trust in God, and being what we would call “perfect” could very well mess that up.

the other thing i’d like to say is that i still do see the universe as having a free course, in a way. I mean, we now know, through quantum physics, that newton was wrong about the universe. It’s not a gigantic machine, destined to run one specific course, like a great clock, but operates under different, more “free” terms" that God installed. What do you all think of this idea?


#19

Gods creation, as created - namely us in this case - was perfect. Man was designed to live forever. The fall put an end to that. The soul lives forever now - but not our bodies. We could only have accomplished the things we have accomplished with the bodies we have. The fact that we ‘fall apart’ after awhile, and suffer while doing so - is the result of the choices we made. I tend to believe this to be true in general (Adam and Eve) as well as personally. The better you treat yourself (bodily) the healthier you are as you age.

As for ducks, well - God does have a sense of humor. Ever see a Platypus? :rotfl: How about the Penguin? Perfectly suited to a water environment except that they breath air, (but then so do whales and dolphins) they are comical on land. But at the same time, they are suited to their environment, the frigid temperatures of the arctic and the antarctic, and the sea where their food resides.

I have seen a couple of threads on this topic - I’m not so sure that ID was the only argument. But - :shrug:

Well, like I said before for me, personally - I believe God put the ingredients together, designed for certain things to happen. How they happen is planned, and to a certain extent when, (timetable) but which specific ingredients getting together is left open. In other words there are two minerals of the same chemical makeup (or a thousand) - which one gets to the amino acid first - big deal, the result is the same.

I think the same is true for space - the set patterns are there - what needs to be in place is in place, the rest is open - except that nothing can disrupt what needs to be in place apart from some planned event - like the asteroid that destroyed the dino’s.

Take for another example - Pharaoh, in the OT, and the children of Israel. God raised him up in order to show His power through him. Could Pharaoh have repented his blood lust? yes, I think so - before he chose to send everyone into the water after the Israelites. After that - too late. But there needed to be a Pharaoh in order for Gods plan to be, not that he was doomed from the foundations of the world - just hardhearted. How far he chose to take that hardheartedness, was on him - after the Israelites were already passing through the water.

Personally - I think seeing the waters parted and the Israelites passing through, given what had already happened, and given a choice, I would have chalked it up as a loss.

Peace

John


#20

I wouldn’t necessarily name or call said deity as “Lord”.

For a bit more depth, I’d suggest you read some Omar Khayam :D. Not only is it some deep philosophy, but some excellent poetry.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.