Six Senses in Which the Universe Is Not Designed.
1. Not created out of absolute
nothingness. Sometimes the idea the our
universe is designed means that it was brought into existence ex nihilo, with
the nihil in this phrase taken to mean absolute nothingness, so that even the
mere fact that there are finite actualities and temporal processes is due to
divine design. Process theology rejects
this view, holding instead that our universe, with its contingent laws of
nature, is a particular instantiation of the universe, which exists eternally,
embodying necessary metaphysical principles.
So, with reference to the papers by Jaroslav Pelikan and Anindita
Balslev, we can say that the idea that the universe had a beginning, associated
with Jerusalem, and the idea that the universe has always existed, associated
with Athens and India, are both correct.
2. Not created all at once.
Sometimes the idea that the universe is designed means that it, with all its
present species of life, was created all at once, or at least virtually
so. Process theology rejects this idea,
agreeing instead with the consensus that the present form of our universe has
come about through a long evolutionary process.
3. Not progressively created
out of nothing. Sometimes, as in the
thought of Alvin Plantinga and Phillip Johnson,the idea that the universe is designed means that, although our present world
came about over billions of years, each new species along the way was created
ex nihilo. This view, known as
progressive creationism--or, more fashionably, punctuated creationism--is rejected
by process theology, which accepts the evolutionary view that all new species
have arisen through descent with modification from prior species. With regard to the common questions as to
why God created the world in such a simple state and then took so long to bring
it to the present state, process theologys answer is that this is the only way
that God could create a world.
4. Not preprogrammed from the
outset. Some theists, such as Rudolf
Otto early in the 20th century, have held that, although God has never
intervened in the world since its creation, every detail of the evolutionary
process is designed, because every evolutionary sequence was preprogrammed. Even the thought of Charles Darwin, with its
deism and determinism, was not free from this implication, although this
implication of Darwins thinking existed in strong tension with his belief in
the contingency of evolutionary developments. Process theology rejects this notion of
deistic design, holding more consistently than did Darwin to the contingency of
every development in every evolutionary sequence, grounding this ubiquitous
contingency in the doctrine that all individual events involve an element of
developments thereby involve chance in an ontological, not merely an epistemic,
sense. Because the self-determination
that exists at the quantum level is magnified, rather than being canceled out,
in higher-level individuals, the contingencies increase in the later stages of
evolution. The present world cannot be
considered, even approximately, as simply the inevitable outworking of the Big
5. Not created solely for human
beings. Sometimes the idea that the
universe is designed means the anthropocentric notion--held by William Paley,
the utilitarian theologian studied by Darwin--that the universe was designed
solely or at least primarily for the sake of human beings. According to this notion of design, the
value of other species is their utility for human beings. Process theology rejects this
anthropocentrism, holding instead that every individual of every species has
both intrinsic value, meaning value in and for itself, and ecological value,
meaning value for the ecosystem. These
two forms of value would have existed if human beings had never appeared and
will continue to exist after we have departed.
6. Human beings not inevitable.
Sometimes the idea that the universe is designed means that it was
designed to bring forth our own species, just as it is. Process theologys rejection of this
connotation is implied by its insistence on contingency, rooted in the
self-determination that has pervaded the evolutionary process. In the evolutionary sequence that led to
Homo sapiens, there were countless contingent developments. If a different possibility had been
actualized in any of these cases, beings exactly like us would not exist. If a different possibility had been
actualized in any of the more crucial cases, no beings even remotely similar to
us would exist.
Now, having clarified several
senses in which process theology does not think the universe is designed, I
turn to two senses in which process theology thinks that it is.
Contributed by: David Ray Griffin