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Downward Causation

Many commentators see downward causation as a way to account for the manner in which God causes events in the world.Kevin Sharpe, Sleuthing the Divine: The Nexus of Science and Spirit (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000): 52This begins by recognizing the limitations that stem from seeing causation occurring only at the micro-scale within a strictly reductionist perspective of nature. While I agree a strict reductionism is hard to support for all kinds of reasons, I follow Barbour in expressing reservations with downward causation as an explanation for Divine agency.Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion (New York: HarperCollins, 2000): 172The trouble, as I see it, is examples of downward causation in nature have an identifiable 'top', and the energy distribution that occurs during the event being caused can be traced throughout the system. For example, in the case of a piston heating a gas volume, the top is the piston (or the operator pushing it depending on how the scenario is set up) and the effect is the increased velocity of the gas molecules. In the case of the Universe, I'm not sure what to call the 'top' from where the causal chain would begin.I don't quite see how God can serve this function in a way that's at all analogous to physical systems.I also don't see a physical connection from a 'top' to all the places God might act, along which we might observe energy redistribution.

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Downward Causation

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Techniques for Identifying Agency
Agency in Machines, Biology, and Humans
Machines and Beings
Robotic Agency
Digital Computers will Always be Machines
Embodied Robotics and Emergent Behaviors
No Thinking Necessary?
Divine Agency
The World as God’s Body
Divine Information


Adrian Wyard

See also:

What Makes us Human?
Are we Free?
Does God Act?
Books on Information Technology