Friday, December 16, 2005

Infinite Wonder of the Divine

Living in the country where no street lights provide so-called “sky pollution,” I’m often see the stars and the Milky Way at night. Awake early this morning, I went out to look at the pre-dawn sky. Although overcast, here and there I could see a few stars flickering where the clouds had drifted apart. At such times I often wonder about the age and size of our expanding universe and our place in the vast scheme of things. It’s good to know that others share my thoughts. The Tablet has recently published a marvelously thoughtful piece, “Infinite Wonder of the Divine,” by George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatoryat Castel Gandolfo and Arizona. Coyne begins this way: "Creationist notions of intelligent design diminish God. Instead we should see his love for the infinitely evolving universe as like that of a parent allowing a growing child to make its own choices and go its own way in life."

And ends with this observation:

It is unfortunate that, especially in America, creationism has come to mean some fundamentalistic, literal, scientific interpretation of Genesis. Judaic-Christian faith is radically creationist, but in a totally different sense. It is rooted in a belief that everything depends upon God, or better, all is a gift from God. The universe is not God and it cannot exist independently of God. Neither pantheism nor naturalism is true. God is working with the universe. The universe has a certain vitality of its own like a child does. It has the ability to respond to words of endearment and encouragement. You discipline a child but you try to preserve and enrich the individual character of the child and its own passion for life. A parent must allow the child to grow into adulthood, to come to make its own choices, to go on its own way in life. Words that give life are richer than mere commands or information. In such wise ways does God deal with the universe – the infinite, ever-expanding universe. That is why, it seems to me, that the Intelligent Design Movement, a largely American phenomenon, diminishes God, makes him a designer rather than a lover.

If now and then you too lean back to look at the stars, you might like to look over “Infinite Wonder of the Divine” and muse along with me over Coyne's observations and thoughts.


Blogger Mason Smith said...

The issue of "intelligent design" has attracted a lot of debate, much of it heated. Both sides seem to react in a personal way to this proposal--not always with good will or good humor. My feeling is that taken as a whole intelligent design is probably not good science, but at the same time it's too interesting to be dismissed out-of-hand.

For example, I had a philosophy professor as an undergraduage who said that of all the proofs for the existence of God, the best--that is, the most consistent theory--was what he called the "coathanger theory." This theory is simply the assertion that "life must come from life," and it takes its name from the fact that no matter how many coathangers get hooked together, at some point the last coathanger must hang on Something. Life does not spontaneously generate itself--ever. And to argue that it does under unique but unknown conditions amounts to special pleading.

To express this another way, if you argue in favor of change as a one-in-a-billion shot, your chances of being right are about one-in-a-billion.

I ran across a similar example a few months ago in an article in Discover magazine. The point was made this time in more scientific terms. The argument here was that DNA is absolutely necessary for life, and it must be complete to work. In other words, the problem was how to envision DNA evolving. Partial DNA is not really DNA and won't work to transfer biological data. Sorta-DNA won't work; kinda DNA won't work, and simi-DNA still won't fill the bill.

Seriously, the complexity of DNA would suggest a long process of development through countless generations, but exactly how that process went forward is hard to imagine.

Sunday, 18 December, 2005  

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