Randomness?

At the philosophy club supper Jordan brought up the philosophical question pertaining to God's foreknowledge and the issue of randomness in the evolution of biological life. I and a fellow bearded philosophy foosballer argued that the term random appeared to have an ideological function in which it assumed atheism and therefore no teleology. This then came to discussing the mechanisms of evolution and whether they were truly random. Maybe we should have sifted out a better understanding of randomness, but anyways I brought to attention the ideas of Simon Conway Morris, a christian palaeontologist, who has a sort of view that says that given the laws of physics and the structure of carbon, carbon based life forms are inevitable. The idea behind this was that it would call the whole idea of randomness into question and introduce the question of design.

So I said I would link all of you to video so here it is. A big part of this documentary is concerned with Extra-terrestrial life. You see pretty quickly how Morris' ideas apply to these questions. Morris begins to discuss his ideas a little after 10:00 in the video. I suggest we continue this subject at the next philosophy meeting.



- I have also found a documentary on Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. I should put it up in the future.

- Also, a good book which discusses Morris' ideas is Why There Almost Certainly Is A God: Doubting Dawkins by Keith Ward. I read it this summer and thought it was one of the better critiques of Dawkins. The chapter of interest would be chapter 2, "Large Aeroplanes and God."

1 comments:

Dr. V said...

Today I viewed the documentary that Mark posted, i.e., the documentary featuring paleontologist Simon Conway Morris, and I enjoyed it immensely. Coincidentally (randomly? providentially?), last night I viewed the documentary Darwin's Dilemma: The Mystery of the Cambrian Fossil Record which also features the paleontologist Simon Conway Morris.

Here are some for-the-most-part philosophical observations:

1. The first documentary (posted by Mark) tends to assume the inevitability of complex life (e.g., the phyla of the Cambrian Explosion) whereas the second documentary (which I watched last night) challenges this assumption.

2. If the first documentary is correct, then it would seem that nature’s fine-tuning for the inevitability of complex life introduces the question of design.

3. If the second documentary is correct, then it would seem that the information (instructions) needed for complex life (instructions apparently somehow “injected” into the system at the Cambrian Explosion after life’s building blocks have evolved) also introduces the question of design.

4. Scientists in both documentaries clearly assume the rational intelligibility of the universe, and such rational intelligibility, because it goes way beyond what’s needed for mere survival, introduces the question of design too.

The upshot: I recommend that Philosophy Foosballers take a look at both documentaries!

(Darwin’s Dilemma is available in the Providence library.)

One last point. It remains that the question of whether randomness and design are wholly incompatible is an interesting (and live) philosophical question. According to scientist-theologian John Polkinghorne, “The Christian God is both loving and faithful,” so His creation can “display characteristics of both openness [chance] and regularity [law], such as are in fact reflected in the physical interplay of chance and necessity in the process of the world.” (John Polkinghorne, Serious Talk: Science and Religion in Dialogue [Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1995], 73.) Polkinghorne adds: “That is the divinely ordained way in which the creation is allowed to make itself.” (Polkinghorne, 73.) And it is in this creation’s unfolding wherein Polkinghorne sees evidence of intelligent design. If Polkinghorne is correct, it would seem that a very intelligent agent such as God could limit the range of possible outcomes and thereby carry out His purposes. It’s food for thought... better: it's an idea to kick around at the foosball table.