Friday, November 4, 2005

The creative wisdom of God

[A passing reflection, to be elaborated "later"...]

In discussions of evolution, teleology, order, transcendence, etc., too much emphasis is placed on order, as if ordered systems were themselves sufficient created signs of the Divine Glory. While Darwinists argue order is but a circumstance of random physical processes, which in turn are further ordered for the symbiotic good of gene-propagating organisms, theists often simply say the order of creation is inconceivable apart from special creation. As a theist, I do, of course, agree with the latter -- but with a qualifier. Intuitively and inductively, creation’s order clearly points to an Orderer, to some kind of supervenient “patternizing” Mens in the cosmos.

But what of creation’s diversity and adaptive randomness? What of the apparent commonness of traditionally "human" capabilities, like emotion, construction, planning, medicating, etc? Is order, by itself, enough to point us to God? Yes -- but the great risk of leaning as much probative weight on "order, order, order!" as intelligent designists do is that we can too easily see creation as an intricate object, rather than as a vital, dynamic *creature*. By focusing on the order of creation, we risk draining it of its dynamic teleology and making all that ordered beauty just a massive deist wristwatch, running unattended in perfect precision. This, the risk of intelligent design (neo-Paleyism) devolving into deism, is much of Edward Oakes's, SJ, critique of ID (cf. his "Newman, Yes; Paley, No" and a correspondence between Oakes and various readers, both in First Things).

What, then, should fill the gap hyper-design theory makes? Wisdom. A major biblical theme besides God's goodness ordered in the ordered goodness of creation is his immanent Wisdom (Heb., hokhmah, Grk., sophia) which animates creation even at the individual level (a la Job, He summons the eagle, guides the bear to food, etc.). God's wisdom is an immanent principle of concretized, individual goodness which manifests in social and symbiotic competition and cooperation. We cannot simply look at creation as a *static* bearer of glory (vis a vis "irreducibly complex order"), but rather, we must couple the witness of fixed order with that of creative wisdom, even in "the lowlier creatures". Hence, recognizing cognitive rudiments in apes, dolphins, etc. does little to erase God, or His creative providence, since He, as the fount of Wisdom, is their creator too, and they must reflect at least some of Him.

Surprisingly, order is not biblical or transcendent *enough*. Paradoxically, order is not teleological *enough*. Rather, we must consider the whole cosmos' pervasive, dynamic "orderliness", ie., its constant tendency to move into greater complexity, to forge connections out of fragments, even through phases of massive disorder. Wisdom is the dynamic principle in created things, from the microcellular to the macro-systems' level, which propels them to adapt and readjust their teleology. Analyzing the usefulness (or, teleology, purpose, etc.) of various things -- by the name "order" -- is insufficient; we must also grapple with the relentless purposefulness of all created reality -- by the name of "wisdom". This is not a "God of the gaps" fix, either. it is, rather, the only adequate way to explain the universe's teleological "trending". Naturalism is inadequate for the riddle of cosmic (or biological) "drivenness", since the bare minimum telos of any entity according to naturalism is to perform a function based on its form. As metaphysically discrete entities, in a world free of metaphysical "essential differences", "universal markers", "species", etc., objects in naturalism have no transcendent "motive" for adapting and harmonizing. On two counts, naturalism fails to explain causation, the "tightness" of which most naturalists, ironically, claim proves there is no need and no philosophical "room" for God. First, there is the problem of independent causation. The second problem is that of "causal entropy."

In the first case, because each physical entity lacks any internal, supraphysical telos or "will", and therefore can only be acted upon by external impulses (energy), there is no explaining why or how a thing *itself* moves *itself*. Since its motive energy depends on external impulses, an object cannot move or change *based on its own properties* (and energy-state). Purely naturalistic entities lack an internal "tension" and therefore lack independent efficacy. Unfortunately for a naturalistic account of reality, this means that even the object A that needs to motivate object B cannot generate that B-motivating action without itself receiving an impulse (say, from C). But this is absurd, since we see objects move others objects; hence naturalism is unfit for explaining independent motion and, in turn, relative causation. The same internal "causal emptiness" we see in discrete causal "small-sets" (eg., A-B-C) applies to the whole "large-set" of causal relations (ie., the whole universe). Just as no object can motivate itself, so the universe cannot motivate itself *even if we assume it is eternal*.

In the second case, because an object can motivate an object at lower energy (inertia), there follows a downward spiral of energy in a closed, strictly natural system. If A has X units of energy, it can influence B, which has only X-less units of energy. But then A loses some of its causal energy and thus awaits a higher-energy impulse (from, say, C). Alas, even what little energy B has gained from A's motivation, it too immediately loses by influencing D. And we must not imagine A, B, C, etc as floating billiard balls in the ether. Rather, these letters signify every possible physical entity in the "causal current" of the universe. Even if we imagine many small entities clustering into an "energy system", which could retro-influence individually larger entities, we must face the fact that the whole universe itself, as a massive energy-system, is the whole time "fighting against" total entropy at its every level and at all its "borders". Hence, unless there is an infinite source of energy "at the top" to "refuel" all the lesser energy-entities, they will all eventually wind down to a sort of zero-state inertia. Of course, assuming the universe is strictly confined to the physical level, positing an infinite source of energy in this closed system would "flood the pipes" and *all* things would be infinitely energized. (Incidentally, this is analogous to the problem Kant saw in a supposedly infinite universe: an infinite number of stars in an infinite universe would be infinitely bright, which is contrary to all observation.) This not being the case, naturalism cannot explain how a set of finitely energized entities can motivate anything in an enduringly bilateral (ie., higher and lower energy-state) way. Theism, however, admits the universe is not limited to its physical causal sets, and therefore can receive higher physical energy by way of a higher metaphysical power.

"Wisdom cosmology", then, is not naturalistic. On the other hand, the idea of wisdom helping things run "to the best of their ability" is not deist. God is not absent from creation, at any level, but he is also not the occasionalist tinkerer, ever winding the clock, oiling the gears and editing the genetic manuscript. Precisely in the "selfish" adaptations of myriad creatures we see God's wisdom at work, even if it is only we humans who are (or can be) conscious of this immanent wisdom. Acknowledging the wisdom of God in creation (and creations) give as much room to natural autonomy as Christianity (or real observation, for that matter) can allow. At the same time, "wisdom biology" helps us envision how God's supreme and secret wisdom (or purpose), shrouded in the darkness of unapproachable light, coordinates all the lower wisdoms in all lower beings. Wisdom allows for true concrete, adaptive, creative, cooperative freedom on the part of creatures, while still protecting the doctrine of God's "self-glorifying" providence.

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