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In Defense of "Theistic Evolution"

Via Lee McCracken, my erstwhile Culture11 editor Joe Carter discusses "theistic evolution" at the First Things blog. Taking his cue from a Washington Post op-ed in which Intelligent Design proponent John West criticizes Kenneth Miller, Francis Collins, and others, Joe complains that if evolution were undirected, then the low probability of ending up with creatures like us would mean that God "would likely need to run the experiment a number of times to get the desired outcome". He concludes:

The debate over Gods role in evolution is often portrayed as pitting proponents of theistic evolution (Miller, Collins) against advocates of intelligent design (The Discovery Institute, Voltaire). But a more accurate distinction would be between those who believe that evolution is intelligently directed and those who think the process was random and undirected but overseen and/or set in motion by an intelligent agent. This later [sic] view appears to be incompatible with both orthodox Christianity and orthodox Darwinism. So why is it considered an intellectually respectable option for believers?

And Lee responds:

I think Carter goes astray here by taking the language of random and undirected too literally. Clearly, evolution is not random in any absolute sense: it operates within the constraints provided locally by the environment and the qualities possessed by organisms, and globally by the fundamental constituents of the universe (e.g, the laws that govern the behavior of subatomic particles). There are reasonswhich have been widely canvassedfor thinking that the emergence of intelligent life is, if not inevitable, then at least intelligible given the nature of our universe. All a theistic evolutionist is committed to is that God set up those fundamental constraints in such a way that He could foreseeat least with a high degree of probabilitythat intelligent life would emerge at some point.

Well, yes and no. If God is omniscient, then his knowledge of the course of evolution is eternally perfect - and whether the evolutionary process was random or not has no bearing on this at all. Contra Carter, then, the randomness of evolution wouldn't require God to tinker around with multiple universes any more than the reality of free will means that Gabriel had to be prepared to ask women other than Mary whether they'd bear the Christ child; in each instance, the fact that the universe's prior state constrained but didn't fully determine what was going to happen doesn't mean that God had to have been ignorant about how things would go.Ultimately what's needed, then, is a view according to which humans are both "an afterthought, a minor detail, a happenstance in a history that might just as well have left us out" (Kenneth Miller's words) and beings created specially by God whose nature he saw to be good: the former phrase is an entirely appropriate characterization of the remarkable series of physical processes that led to our development, while the latter is an admittedly imperfect attempt to understand things from the perspective of the supernatural order. One of the central defects of the ID movement is, of course, its inability to respect such a distinction between what Aquinas called primary and secondary causes. As the citation of the Angelic Doctor suggests, however, that's hardly a distinction that deserves to be held in intellectual disrepute.UPDATE: Stephen Barr beat me to it. And since this is my first post here, hi all. I'm a graduate student in (surprise!) philosophy at U.C. Berkeley, and I've contributed book reviews to Commonweal a couple of times over the past year or so. I blog regularly here, by the way, and beginning next calendar year I'll be an assistant professor of philosophy at Mount St. Mary's University. Many thanks to Matthew and Grant for the opportunity to join the discussion here at dotCommonweal.

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The issue of probablility is a red herring. If we assume that the universe is infinite in size -- or at least so enormous that we can treat it as infinite, as a reasonable extension of the central limit theorem would allow -- then there's almost a statistical GUARANTEE that, somewhere, there's a random evolutionary process that would inevitably result in a world like the one we inhabit. Thus the question of randomness of the process really doesn't matter, since all we have to demonstrate that one world evolved, randomly or not, into this one.

RP Burke: I'm not sure that I fully understand this application of the central limit theorem, but don't we know for a fact that the universe isn't infinite in size? It seems that without appealing to something approaching an actual infinity - and indeed, cardinality would seem to matter here, too - of universes, the sort of guarantee you're talking about couldn't be gotten.In any case, though, if God is omniscient then he'd also know which of those universes would turn out to be a world like ours, and which wouldn't.

Hi John. Welcome to dotComm. I am one of the resident heretics here. Among the more traditional Christian notions that I am inclined to resist is divine omniscience. I think God has perfect knowledge of all that exists to be known, but, since the future does not exist, is not actual, then God does not have perfect knowledge of it. God can be said to have an infinitely better knowledge of where the future is likely headed than any non-divine being could ever have, but still, God would not know the future perfectly. I am thus inclined to resist the notion that God could have known the outcomes of our universe and our planet 13.7 billion years ago.As for primary and secondary causation, I am not convinced either that the distinction makes sense, or, even if it did make sense, why it means that the details of our universe were somehow clear to God from the beginning. I don't think the idea makes sense because pure act cannot completely exist in God and then exist again in creation. One would have pure act, and then something else in addition to pure act. I don't think it means that the details of our world were clear to God for etenity because pure act would not be limited to that which came to be in our world, it would include all really possible worlds, and a world where the asteroid did not hit our planet making biological room for us strikes me as a real possibility.At any rate, the only things at stake here seems to be some elements of Christian doctrine that are uninteresting to me. Why is it important to think that God had us in mind when our universe began?Mind you, I do think God is at work in the created order. I think God provides a telos toward which the universe strives, and there is evidence of this throughout the natural and human world. However, how the universe will respond to God seems entirely up to the universe itself, and, how humans will respond to God seems entirely likely to produce things that surprise even God.

Welcome, John!Stephen Barr says the following: "But when we shuffle a deck, we are not escaping in any way from Gods absolute control over events: God knows and wills in exact detail from all eternity that I will shuffle the deck, precisely how I will shuffle the deck, and what the order of the cards will be after I shuffle the deck. On this point Calvinism and Catholicism agree."I am not sure how this reflects God's "atemporality." "From all eternity" is a temporal concept, with time going infinitely into the past and infinitely into the future, but with before and after still being perfectly valid concepts. It sounds like he is saying God knows what is going to happen before it actually happens, and God wills it to happen. But if God is outside of time, there is no before and after for him. This also seems to mean that if you are playing poker and get a bad hand, it is God's will! If God wills everything that happens, he wills every storm, earthquake, volcano eruption, as well as every automobile accident and plane crash. It would also appear that he wills every epidemic of every disease, and wills each individual case of infection and its outcome.Also, it is generally argued that just because God knows what is going to happen "beforehand," that does not mean that what is going to happen is determined. But the argument here seems to be that God has determined the course of evolution because he knew and willed the course evolution would take from all eternity. So it appears that in some cases, God's foreknowledge is no reason to think something is predetermined, but in the case of evolution, God's foreknowledge makes it predetermined.

JP:

I think God has perfect knowledge of all that exists to be known, but, since the future does not exist, is not actual, then God does not have perfect knowledge of it.

But of course that's less of a problem if God exists, and therefore has his knowledge, outside of time, right?DN:

This also seems to mean that if you are playing poker and get a bad hand, it is God's will! If God wills everything that happens, he wills every storm, earthquake, volcano eruption, as well as every automobile accident and plane crash. It would also appear that he wills every epidemic of every disease, and wills each individual case of infection and its outcome.

I agree that Barr's talk of "willing" is a bit unhelpful - though perhaps we could distinguish "primary" and "secondary" senses of this, too?

The central limit theorem is a red herring.Look at it this way, in any lottery, someone is certain to win. The fact that the odds may be vanishingly small for any specirfic individual does not entitle the eventual winner to claim that a miracle occurred (although winners often seem to insist on doing so).In other words, having won the cosmic lottery does not mean the specific outcome was divinely preordained. That life would arise somewhere is simply inherent in the design of the game.

John: A God outside of time is at best an Aristotelian prime mover, and certainly is not a biblical God.The fact that we can reflect on the nature of the universe means that it has to be such as to make critters like us possible, but that hardly means that were were either divinely or proabaliistically (??) necessary.I teach at a historically black university. The best way I have found to get my student's to deny the conclusion that God determines everything that happens in the world is to argue that only one safe conclusion can be drawn from such a claim; namely, that God hates black people. After the initial shock wears off, the students get what I am saying.

oops, should be "we were" not "were were" in fourth line above.

John Schwenkler --Welcome to the blog :-) Always good to have another philosopher around, especially a young one. Before this discussion gets heated, I think it would be good to recognize that the word "God" has many meanings, and in the general discussion "God" has meant everything from an Aristottelian sort of organizing force behind the apparent process. and it can mean a Thomistic sort of God who is omniscient, omnipotent, and simltaneously fully existent at every point of cosmic time. Or it can mean some other sorts of things. Different meanings might require different answers to the questionAlso, I think it behooves us to give some consideration to what "randomness" MEANS. (Yes, I'm a Wittgenstein lover.) Not to mention the meanings of "probability". (By coincidence, I just ordered Frank Ramsey's philosophical papers last night. Before this discussion is over, I might actually understand something about it :-)Would you like to tell us all about "randomness" and "probability" in 140 words or less?

Would you like to tell us all about randomness and probability in 140 words or less?

Nope. :)That Stephen Barr post I linked to in the update seems to me to do a pretty good job, though - but I'd have to do a lot more thinking (and reading) before I could give it a really clear critical evaluation.

"John: A God outside of time is at best an Aristotelian prime mover, and certainly is not a biblical God."Joe, the Biblical God is the God who created Time, (in the beginning...). God was there in the beginning, so in order to be there in the beginning of Time, God must be able to exist outside of Time and Space to begin with.

John, thanks for this post. It is very deep.:-)

"I am not sure how this reflects Gods atemporality. From all eternity is a temporal concept, with time going infinitely into the past and infinitely into the future,"David Nickol --Boethius' celebrated definition of "eternity" is this: the perfect and simultaneous possession of etrnal life. It does not imply a beginning or an end at all, because it is simultaneous with all serial times. Very sophistocated noton for the beginning of the "Dark" Ages, I'd say. ark Ages.

P.S., the concept of randomness and probability have never been a problem for God since He knows all the conditions that exist in the Universe that He created. That being said, even though it is God's desire that we Love Him as He Loves us, Love is not coercive, which is why, unlike Calvin, we do not believe that free will is predestined.

Does not our imagination, and our language, often betray us? We spontaneously think of God as we do of ourselves, and thus speak of God's knowing the future, and of all the difficulties an infallible knowledge of the future might pose. And we cannot imagine a-temporality, any more than we can imagine omni-potence, or omni-science, or in-finity, an infinite act of understanding, etc., etc., etc.... Is not the most we can do to reply to objections? That's the reason for the distinctions between primary and secondary causality, between time and eternity, etc.

Is it accepted that there is a multiverse - that everything that can exist, does exist? I wonder how that reflects on God's omniscience and on God's will.

I wouldn't say that the existence of a multiverse is "accepted" - it's certainly disputed by many ID proponents, at least! But even if there is one - and this was the thrust of one of my earlier comments - then there would have to be quite a lot of them in order for it to be true that "everything that can exist, does exist", and I'm not at all sure where physicists stand on the question of how many parallel universes there are supposed to be.

The best way I have found to get my students to deny the conclusion that God determines everything that happens in the world is to argue that only one safe conclusion can be drawn from such a claim; namely, that God hates black people. Joe,It has often seemed to me that the story Catholic Christianity tells about God depicts him as someone whose plans always go awry. He creates the human race, and the first two members disobey him and get booted from Eden. He gets so disgusted with creation that he at first decides to wipe it all out, but doesn't quite go through with it, saving Noah and the animals on the ark. The world repopulates, but people are so rotten that God confuses them by causing them to speak many different languages. The Israelites are constantly falling from grace (e.g., worshipping idols in the desert while God gives Moses the Ten Commandments). God sends his son to the Jews ("I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel") and they reject him. So with the initial help of some Jewish followers of Jesus, the Gentiles create the "One True Church," which still survives after almost 2000 years, but with somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 other Christian denominations. If God's plans for humanity have gone so far awry at every juncture, what makes anyone suppose that evolution has gone according to plan?

As Ann and others have suggested on this thread, in trying to reason backwards one eventually runs into the brick wall of language, which is a manifestation of our finitude. At that point, this all seems to take on the aspect of a rather entertaining parlor game.

My welcome too!Nice to see here notions of secondary causality and also the problem of analogy.Joe is on track that the God of Scripture is not and shouldn't be the God of philosophy, since His Action will always be mysterious, election and redemption -for this world at least.

Multiverse is a disasterous notion. Of course, the idea that a universe exists in which I had first been an influential cleric, and anonymous heretic, but then married a Bangladeshi office secretary who was an amibidexterous scrabble fanatic with one brother who was a mass murderer and and three who worked customer service at a computer company called Dellcrosoft is rather interesting.Fr. Komonchak: Your argument seems to work just as well against the notion of coming up with such ideas in the first place. If our immaginations are not sufficiently capable of critiquing the ideas, then perhaps they are insufficient for producing the ideas at all.

The Counterbalance Interactive Library (at Berkeley) offers some discussion of this stuff - wish I could understand it :)

Multiverse is a disasterous notion. Joe, Your understanding of the multiverse is different from mine (which I would refer to as the many-worlds hypothesis). It is that at every "decision point" (to oversimplify, not that I really can do anything else!), universes branch off so that both possibilities actually happen. So only if one of the huge numbers of Joe Pettit's, already in existence in different worlds, came to a point where he chose between marrying a Bangladeshi office secretary and not marrying her, would there be a branching of worlds (or universes) in which one Joe got married and the other Joe didn't. This is actually taken quite seriously in physics. It is not a wild, speculative theory, but a serious suggestion to explain quantum phenomena. It would seem to be totally incompatible with Christianity, as far as I can tell.

It [the multiverse theory] would seem to be totally incompatible with Christianity, as far as I can tell.I was thinking that it was not incompatible but had something to do with God's knowledge of everything. I know I don't understand these concepts very well, but science and religion seem to interact in interesting ways - like the idea of free will and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.Another link - The Center for Theology and the Narural Sciences (also in Berkeley) - I read somewhere that they have been working with the Vatican Observatory on the subject of divine action.

So, David N., would that mean that the concept of the multiverse would be sort of like a "do over", kind of like the movie, "Ground Hog Day" only on a much grander, universal scale?

I was thinking that it was not incompatible but had something to do with Gods knowledge of everything. Crystal,It would seem to me that every time a person was faced with a decision commit a mortal sin (or any sin) or not to commit a mortal sin, that would be a branching point, and you'd get one world in which the person sinned, and another in which the person didn't. So it would seem to be incompatible with free will. You don't really make choices. Everything that can happen, will happen.

The concept of a multiverse would be incapatible with Christianity because there is only one Son of God, who had only one Human Life, and it was here. in this Universe, on the Planet Earth.

"Joe is on track that the God of Scripture is not and shouldnt be the God of philosophy"Bob Nunz --AAACKK!!! AWWK!!! ARGH! COUGH, COUGH, EEEK! and Sob.You think that philosophy is not mysterious? You have all the philosophical answers? (I thought not.)Isn't one of the differences between science and philosphy that sciene thinks it can answer all questions while philosophy knows it can't?

". . .youd get one world in which the person sinned, and another in which the person didnt. "But is it the *same* person in those infinite number of universes? In other words, the theory doesn't predicate an infinite number of one you. To do so would seem to me to be awfully contradictory.

David, I see what you mean in that every choice that can be made, including the bad ones, will be made, so where is the option to not choose badness? There's an interesting lecture by professor (and Anglican priest) Keith Ward - Cosmology and Creation - in which he seems to argue for the multiverse. Here's just a little bit of it ...."[...] Although it is beset with difficulties, the idea of a multiverse prompts a further suggestion about the nature of the Primordial creative Mind. If we posit a divine mind, then there can be an infinite and exhaustive array of possible universes that exist in the actuality of that mind. Perhaps an essential characteristic of primordial mind is the principle of plenitude. According to this principle, every possible sort of good should exist, as long as its existence does not come at the price of excessive and unredeemable harm.St. Augustine comes near to framing the principle when, discussing the existence of evil, he writes that the worlds course is more gracious by antithetic figures (City of God, Bk. 11, ch. 18). That is, As a picture shows well though it have black colours in divers places, so the universe is most fair, for all those stains of sins (ch. 23). Augustines idea is that the universe is better if there are many grades of goodness, even if the lower grades involve the existence of evil. From this we might generalise that the more kinds and degrees of goodness there are the better. And perhaps there is something in the divine nature that causes it to generate every possible sort of good, even though some kinds will inevitably incur suffering. We would be wise to add a proviso that the good must overwhelmingly outweigh the evil, and that evil must in some way be redeemable, or be capable of being turned to or giving rise to an otherwise unobtainable good for the sufferers themselves.Thomas Aquinas similarly asserts something like the principle of plenitude in a rather different way: A mark of active will is that a person so far as he can shares with others the good he possesses. So it befits the divine nature that others also should partake of it (Summa Theologiae, 1a, 19, 2, responsio). Aquinas does not draw from this the conclusion that seems naturally to follow, that it necessarily belongs to divine perfection that there should be many created goods, and many subjects to experience them, and perhaps that the more different kinds of goods there are the better. But it seems logical to do so."But still, I don't understand all this, I just think it's interesting.

David: I do not claim to be an expert on multiverse theory, but what little I have read of it seems like the physicists version of being captured by something like what Heidegger calls ontotheology (although, one can never be quite sure what Heidegger meant). That is, they cannot handle the notion of a genuine indeterminacy. They resist real notions of becoming, explaining all of it away by making ever possible reality actual.You may know of my interest in process theology/philosophy. Whitehead would have little patience, I think, for the idea of multiverses.As for "decision points" one of the real problems is that each branch universe would then itself have its own decision points, and, like the bad shampoo comercial, and so on, and so on, and so on. Given my previous interest in the Jesuits and in the International Jesuit Volunteers (neither path did I eventually go down, but both were seriously considered), the scenario I weave is not at all that unlikely.What IS cool is that there must be universes out there both were I am writing better stuff than Merton and where I was much more adventurous with women (not that Merton was both, also). I feel less like I have missed out on something so long as I am all choosable paths that exist.Crystal: Regarding Ward, his comments exemplify the problem of God as pure act containing within it all actuality. If all actuality is already actual in God, then what are we?David has already identified the moral problem with the multiverse. Another theological problem is the idea of genuine creation. Multiverse theory does not seem to really allow for genuine novelty.

Sorry, meant to say "not that Merton wasn't both" the double negative implying that he WAS both a really good writer and adventurous. Also, "so long as all possible paths really exist."

Joe,I should stop commenting on this because I'm in way over my head, but I thought I'd just add one thing - I do wonder if the God of science is different from a personal God. I don't think that has to be so. Keith Ward, for instance, is a Jesus freak :) who mentions his religious experience in one of his books. I think this stuff is interesting, probably helps I'm a science fiction fan, but I mostly blame my Jesuit spiritual director, as he's the one who first interested me in cosmology.

Ann:Isnt one of the differences between science and philosphy that sciene thinks it can answer all questions while philosophy knows it cant?Is that why the biologist JBS Haldane said "the world is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine"?Crystal:I see what you mean in that every choice that can be made, including the bad ones, will be made, so where is the option to not choose badness?What an interesting thought. The copy of you in one universe goes to heaven, while the other one goes to hell. I wonder. Would that imply a parallel heaven and a parallel hell or would one meet one's doppleganger (assuming you and your doppleganger ended up in the same place in the afterlife)?

"" Aquinas does not draw from this the conclusion that seems naturally to follow, that it necessarily belongs to divine perfection that there should be many created goods, and many subjects to experience them, and perhaps that the more different kinds of goods there are the better. But it seems logical to do so.Crystal, I agree. Leibniz, on the other hand, thought that God freely created the best of all possible worlds. The creation was not necessary, but *if* God chose to create then the world created must be the best one possible.Antonio,But your doppelganger wouldn't *be* you, no more than your identical twin really were exactly like you. Enter Leibniz again, with his principle of the identity of indiscernibles. This says, roughly, that if there was no difference between what two names signify, then they signify the absolutely same thing. Your doppelganger in an alternative world would have different relations and experiences from you in this one, and so the two of you would indeed be discernibly different things.

Fr. Komonchak's comment is, I think, right on target. Any claim that we can gain POSITIVE knowledge about God and God's creative activity from our examination of empirical evidence or from our construction of models for how to conceive of the physical universe is a temptation to be avoided. Creation is not a making of any sort. Creation is ex nihilo. Making is not ex nihilo.No examination of worldly processes can tell us anything POSITIVE about creation-conservation. As Fr. Komonchak rightly says, the theological task is to reply to objections against creation ex nihilo, or, I would add, to claims that science can teach us something Positive about God and God's doings. No scientific evidence can disprove God or His creative action. The theological task is to show how any attempt to do so goes beyond what the empirical evidence would warrant. As I understand it, this is the basic insight behind the apophatic theology of the Fathers and of Aquinas.So, or so I would conclude, if either the "theistic evolutionists" or the "intelligent design" proponents claim that they can say anything POSITIVE about God and His doings, they are mistaken.

Ann:But your doppelganger wouldnt *be* you, no more than your identical twin really were exactly like you. Exactly. Note that I did say "copy". I merely wondered about the fate of this hypothetical alternative person in the afterlife. Fr, Dauenhauer:No scientific evidence can disprove God or His creative action.True. It might also be well to point out that neither can science prove God's existence

Any claim that we can gain POSITIVE knowledge about God and Gods creative activity from our examination of empirical evidence or from our construction of models for how to conceive of the physical universe is a temptation to be avoided. Creation is not a making of any sort. Creation is ex nihilo. Making is not ex nihilo.I don't see why the idea that God vreated the universe out of nothing means that you cannot learn anything about God from examining his creation. What you seem to be saying is what Barth said, that we can gain no knowledge of God by looking at creation, but only through what God chooses to reveal to us - revelation. But I think there is some support for "the analogy of being" (Erich Przywara S.J.) - the idea that we creatures and the natural world somehow resemble our creator. I guess Hans Urs von Balthasar and David Bentley Hart are more modern proponents of this stance?

Mr. Pettit: In response to John, you wrote: A God outside of time is at best an Aristotelian prime mover, and certainly is not a biblical God.. May I ask why you think that an atemporal God is not a biblical God? To refer to only two of the giants of the western tradition, both Augustine and Aquinas were of the view that time began with creation and that God exists outside time, and yet they spent a great deal of their time and energy exegeting biblical books and what they had to say about God, the same timeless God. And their God was certainly not simply Aristotles prime mover. I preach every Sunday about the God of the Bible, and dont think that I start talking about another God when I speak in class about a God who exists outside time. So I dont understand why you set up this dichotomyIn response to me, you wrote: Your argument seems to work just as well against the notion of coming up with such ideas in the first place. If our immaginations are not sufficiently capable of critiquing the ideas, then perhaps they are insufficient for producing the ideas at all. This assumes that I think that it was imagination that produced those ideas of God. I dont think so. In fact, I think that the ideas involved cannot be imagined. For example, since images all are limited, they cannot yield the idea of infinity. Or Boethius definition of eternity, referred to by Ann above, which also cannot be imagined. I think it is the mind, not the imagination, that produces such images. Bernard Lonergan conceived of God as the unrestricted act of understanding, the eternal rapture glimpsed in every Archimedean cry of Eureka. We have some experience of acts of understanding and of the joy they are, but we have no image even of them, much less of an infinite act of understanding and the rapture it must be.

Whoa. You folks have ratcheted up the conversation more than a notch or two. It is now admittedly beyond my ability to grasp. But if the Church officialy accepts Darwin's as sound science while continuing to hold that a spiritual force continues to guide us forward, is it not fair to conclude that the Church understands that all knowledge is evolutionary? Even the all-knowing, all-seeing, always-benevolent and all-powerful God's?

Whoa. Michael, who said the Church officially accepts Darwin as sound science? Knowledge is evolutionary in that our understanding of the conditions that exist in God's Universe has evolved over Time.

I don't have a Commonweal subscription, so I can't read that article about Teilhard, unfortunately. I always revisit one of the older dogmas of the Church, that Christ is completely human and completely divine, but one person. The Darwinian revolution brings new light to that dogma; as we evolve, politically and genetically, into something more and more human, we become more and more divine, that is, more an more Christ-like. Teilhard believed that evolution was increasingly an optional process - and he lived before the dawn of genetics technology! I think he's right. Also, the evolution of all life on this planet is, increasingly, a process directed by human consciousness. In other words, evolution of life on Earth IS human evolution, that is, the willful choice of humanity. We have become angels before the fall. Maybe then , Jesus was not a Hellenistic god-man, walking among the troops like Henry V, but instead, a man before his time, a light in the darkness before dawn - if we choose it. The final question is this: does God want companionship or does God want to come into being?

" Knowledge is evolutionary in that our understanding of the conditions that exist in Gods Universe has evolved over Time."Hey, Nancy, you're turning into a philosopher. Point well taken :-)

"... since images all are limited, they cannot yield the idea of infinity."JAK -- Fine argument for the reality of non-imaginative thought!My favorite modern argument is one of Frege's (he's the humogously great logician) A Platonist,he argued the we simply cannot imagine the meaning of the word "no/not". It has neither color,shape, spatial dimensionality of any sort whether length, breadth, width, solidity, odor, etc., etc It is not an imaginary object, and yet even a nine-month-old kid knows what it means :-). (And Singer says they're not rational animals. Hmph.). One could extrapolate and say that neither can we imagine the meaning of "if,,,then..." and all those lovely logical notions that can't be found in the impirical level of the world.There's also "consequently", "necessary", "possible" . . . The list goes on and on.

Nancy:Whoa. Michael, who said the Church officially accepts Darwin as sound science?From the address of Pope John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (October 22, 1996) (the full text is at http://www.newadvent.org/library/docs_jp02tc.htm )4. Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis considered the doctrine of "evolutionism" a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions: that this opinion should not be adopted as though it were a certain, proven doctrine and as though one could totally prescind from revelation with regard to the questions it raises. He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return. Today, almost half a century after the publication of the encyclical, new knowledge has led to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. [Italics added] [Aujourdhui, prs dun demi-sicle aprs la parution de l'encyclique, de nouvelles connaissances conduisent reconnaitre dans la thorie de l'volution plus qu'une hypothse.] It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favor of this theory.

Fr Komonchak:This assumes that I think that it was imagination that produced those ideas of God. I dont think so. In fact, I think that the ideas involved cannot be imagined. For example, since images all are limited, they cannot yield the idea of infinity.The following is from Wikipedia:"Imagination, also called the faculty of imagining, is the ability of forming mental images, sensations and concepts."Trying to make a distinction between mind and imagination seems like inventing a distiction to support a point. Given the conceptual aspect above, I don't see how imagination is ruled out. In fact, I don't see how the notion of infinity can occur otherwise.

Nancy:The concept of a multiverse would be incapatible with Christianity because there is only one Son of God, who had only one Human Life, and it was here. in this Universe, on the Planet Earth.So now it's heresy to believe in multiverses. I knew it would come to that.

Mr. Manetti: This iobviously turns on one's definition of mind and imagination. I didn't take my notion of the latter from Wikipedia. I believe that understanding, an act of the mind, is the source of concepts, which are not images. The insights occur with regard to images (phantasms), but they are not the same thing as images. "Justice," for example, is not an image. I don't believe I invented this distinction.

Antonio, it is not heresy to believe in multiverses if it is only in your imagination,;-)

P.S., The fact that God placed the Earth in the preferred location in the the Universe, is evidence for God's desire that the Earth be able to sustain Life from the beginning. It should not surprise us in the least that there are many similarities among the various living organisms that exist because of the conditions that exist on Earth to sustain this Life as well as the conditions that are maintained through the Earth's relative position in the Universe. This does not mean that because there are similarities among different species, all species are the same, nor is it Scientific proof that all species come from the same initial source, unless of course, you are referring to The Blessed Trinity.While there is certainly evidence for microevolution as seen in the study of Genetics, there does not exist evidence (i.e. DNA added to an ape that is then added to "apeman", that whalah, results in Man) that macro-evolution has occured, which is why, at the end of the Day, a cat is still a cat, a dog is still a dog, and a monkey remains a monkey.

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