Randomness & Divine Providence

JIS XXVII 2015: 1-3


Oskar Gruenwald
Institute for Interdisciplinary Research

This 27th volume in the interconnected thematic series of the Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies addresses a fascinating theme, “Does God Play Dice? Randomness and Divine Providence,” that reflects Albert Einstein’s famous response to Max Born concerning randomness in quantum theory: “God does not throw dice” (“Gott würfelt nicht”). While not a religious believer, Einstein’s insight lends support to a key Judeo-Christian precept regarding a rational, benevolent Creator of a world intelligible to human beings. Einstein was still perplexed by the methodological and epistemological dilemmas raised by quantum randomness, but dismissed the unwarranted inference that quantum randomness is ontological, that is, an objective attribute of nature. The essays in this volume grapple with puzzles posed by twentieth-century science at both the micro- and macro-levels. While privileging a theistic viewpoint, the authors draw on arguments pro and con from many sources and across the disciplines–from biology, mathematics, and physics to literature, philosophy, and theology. The arguments deployed are by their very nature interdisciplinary, seeking to integrate scientific findings via cognitive maps that facilitate comprehension by Homo sapiens. The volume’s interdisciplinary orientation thus aspires to bridge the chasm between the natural sciences and the humanities in the quest to restore a unified vision.

JIS XXVII 2015: 4-24


William R. Clough
Argosy University-Sarasota

The Reverend Thomas Bayes has recently become best known for his mathematical Theorem, but Bayes’ vocation, and primary identity, was that of minister. Bayes’ writings include a tract on divine benevolence and an essay on the philosophy of calculus as well as what has come to be known as Bayes’ Theorem. Two and a half centuries ago, Bayes affirmed both the Providence of God and the probabilistic nature of reality. This essay explores some implications of Bayes’ Theorem in light of his theology. The central thesis is that it is fruitful to make the connection between Bayes’ mathematical theory of probability, its implications when extended in time, and his view of God as the continuous in-breaking of the good tending to the benefit of all creation. In so doing, Bayes suggests ways to shed light on current theological and philosophical discussions, including theodicy, religion and science, and chance and Providence.

JIS XXVII 2015: 25-44


Gerald Bergman
Northwest State College

This essay explores the influence of randomness in genetic change based on findings in the scientific literature. In many cases, random mutations are not the source of genetic variation that allows adaptation to an environ-mental change. Rather, innate mechanisms are the cause. Typical examples are used to illustrate how these systems work, and the evidence for them. Randomness appears to have less effect in causing micro-evolution then once assumed. But it has a significant influence in causing near neutral and deleterious mutations, resulting in genetic entropy. Some random mutations have a beneficial effect. However, all are due to gene damage that in some situations have limited beneficial effects. This suggests that major steps should be taken by the medical community to help ameliorate the adverse effects of random mutations on the human genome.

JIS XXVII 2015: 45-60


James Melnick
Evangelical Theological Society

Scientific measurements of fine-tuning factors, especially the cosmological constant, have forced non-theists to fall back on anthropic reasoning and multiverse theories to try to explain away the implications of a theistically-designed universe. Whatever its other uses, employing anthropic reasoning in this way is questionable. It is unscientific to posit trillions upon trillions of universes–as many multiverse proponents and string theorists do–in order to try to explain away the fine-tuned existence of our own. Albert Einstein would likely dismiss many current multiverse theories. Yet, might we still live in a multiversal reality? This essay posits such a reality–a Triverse–as a more parsimonious view over popular multiverse theories. The proposed Triverse has some similarity to, but is distinct from, Roger Penrose’s “three worlds” in his Shadows of the Mind. A multiversal Triverse reality might also eventually be reconciled with some of the evidence and indicators that support quantum mechanics, and thus help define a more deterministic universe.

JIS XXVII 2015: 61-81


James Lefeu
Trinity Evangelical DIvinity School

This essay explores quantum physics and theology to propose that ontological randomness does not exist, but divine Providence does. Some interpretations of quantum physics that involve mathematical formalism and observational phenomenology are deterministic (de Broglie-Bohm, many-worlds, cosmological, time-symmetric, many-minds), while others are non-deterministic (Copenhagen, stochastic, objective collapse, transactional). Yet, quantum events are merely epistemically indeterminable by us, but actually do have a fundamental cause. Compatibilism best describes the teaching of the Bible. Humans possess free agency, and are determined by their desires and values. Hence, they can be said to have “free will,” because they do what they want. The fundamental cause, as understood by Compatibilism, is God’s Providence, defined as God’s continual involvement with creation through keeping it existing, cooperating with creation in every action, and directing it to fulfill His purposes. The interaction between quantum physics and Providence suggests methodological parallels between science and theology in a quest for synthesis.

JIS XXVII 2015: 82-98


Sergey Sekatskii
Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, Switzerland

The idea that a human being may select at will outcomes of certain quantum events, and that this is free will, has been put forward long ago. But how can such a possibility to control quantum randomness be recombined with the necessity to obey the known statistical distributions of the laws of nature? Antoine Suarez proposes a Quantum Homeostasis Hypothesis (QHH), where this may happen during sleep or dreams. Divine providence may also be placed exactly here without violating the free will of a human being, and in accordance with the necessity to follow the statistical laws of nature. God may instruct one during sleep and dreams. Apart from the Bible, this is attested to by sources in many ancient civilizations. This essay addresses this aspect of QHH in an attempt to answer the question whether data may show that our “acts of will” during dreams differ from such during a fully conscious state of mind.

JIS XXVII 2015: 99-108


Karl W. Giberson
Stonehill College

Most people believe that everything happens for a reason. Whether it is “God’s will,” “karma” or “fate,” we want to believe that an overarching purpose undergirds everything, that nothing in the world–especially a disaster or tragedy–is a random, meaningless event. This dilemma presents itself provocatively in Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution that, in the conventional scientific understanding, is driven by random chance. Reconciling chance and divine purpose poses challenges to the Judeo-Christian tradition. But the Hebrew Scriptures, in the ancient and powerful story of Job, reveal that questions of purpose and order have long been a part of the conversation. Although the Bible generally affirms that God blesses the righteous in an orderly way, the story of Job is a powerful counterexample to this orderly scheme. The achingly beautiful but tragic story of Job, in concert with the modern quantum picture of the world, push back against the idea that “everything happens for a reason.”

JIS XXVII 2015: 109-124


Dennis F. Polis
University of Delaware

Despite Albert Einstein’s claim that “God does not throw dice,” it is widely believed that quantum physics presents an intrinsically random universe. This conflicts with the theological view that nature operates in one and the same way, unless it be prevented as a result of divine providence. A proposed projection paradigm is based on respect for the integrity of each science. Apparent conflicts between science and theology may be resolved by the consistent application of the principles of science, each within its valid domain. Using this approach, paradoxes are found to involve a covert Platonism among quantum theory’s interpreters. Rather than endorsing an interpretive hypothesis, this essay seeks to apply accepted physics to quandaries posed by quantum theory.

JIS XXVII 2015: 125-138


David Grandy
Brigham Young University

We often suppose that science forces our hand when it comes to theological options. Thus, in the twentieth century, some argued that Darwinian biology rules out the possibility of a loving, caring God, and that quantum mechanics, by disclosing the intrinsic chanciness of nature, problematizes the traditional Christian belief of God’s providential involvement in our lives. Yet science underdetermines religious belief–the so-called scientific evidence is insufficient to rule out belief in divine providence. If we choose not to believe in such, we choose freely, not because science constrains us. If anything, the choice not to believe precedes scientific judgment, not the other way around. To illustrate this thesis, one may compare the religious worldviews of Charles Darwin and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. The striking difference between the two is not the result of scientific discovery, but rather a shift in Western culture regarding the propriety of letting God figure into scientific explanations of nature.

JIS XXVII 2015: 139-154


Richard Lane
St. Stephen’s Bellevue Hill, Australia

This essay examines the concept of randomness in the Bible and explores comparisons with quantum physics. There is obvious tension in linking these two fields. But there are also similarities concerning the quantum notion of the “arrow of time” and the Biblical arrow which caused the death of Ahab in 1 Kings 22. Randomness and death may also be linked. The main focus of the essay concerns the escape of King David from Absalom as recorded in 2 Samuel 15-17. The non-random selection of Ahithophel, who sided with Absalom against David, is juxtaposed with his suicide and an apparently random well which is vital for David’s survival. The description of the escape, along with a significant translation problem, and concepts associated with quantum physics are used to help explain what occurred. The conclusion highlights how quantum physics and the Bible overlap on the subject of consciousness, and shows the importance of knowledge for defining randomness.

JIS XXVII 2015: 155-184


Bruce N. Lundberg
Colorado State University-Pueblo

This essay relates probability, fine-tuning, Providence, and the contingency of beings. It considers how perceptions of fine-tuning in the laws of physics are deployed using probabilities in multiverse and fine-tuning arguments regarding the coming into being of the universe. These arguments lack the probabilistic resources to quantitatively sharpen or blunt such perceptions. Yet the philosophical facts behind fine-tuning–the universe’s being, complexity, contingency, order, and intelligibility open to human minds–may reflect the dependence of what is seen on Providence. Randomness, probability, and mathematics in general cannot create, but presume a backdrop of order and actuated possibilities. Providence, guiding beings to good ends, is beyond the competence of science to detect and establish. Yet it may be recognized, in part, by practical and philosophic reflections on the being, behavior, and minds of self and others. The mind’s road to Providence may be explored from the facts of fine-tuning.

   * Oleg Zinam Award for Best Essay in JIS 2015.