Davies, Paul. Teleology Without Teleology: Purpose through Emergent Complexity."
Paul Davies offers us a
modified version of the uniformitarian view of divine action. In selecting the
laws of nature, God chooses specific laws which allow not only for chance
events but also for the genuine emergence of complexity. He claims that the
full gamut of natural complexity cannot be accounted for by neo-Darwinism,
relativity, and quantum mechanics; one must also consider natures inherent
powers of self-organization based on, though not reducible to, these laws.
Still the emergence of complexity does not require special interventionist
Davies begins by classifying
divine action into three types: interventionist, non- interventionist, and
uniform. He rejects the first, since it reduces God to nature and involves
theological contradictions. The second is a new possibility which appeals to
quantum indeterminism and bottom-up causality or to the mind-body problem and
top-down causality. Davies considers several possible objections and responds
to them before turning to his own view, a modified form of uniform divine
action. This emphasizes Gods continuing role in creating the universe each
moment though without bringing about particular events which nature on its
own would not have produced. Davies illustrates this via the game of chess, in
which the end of a given game is determined both by the rules and by the
specific sequence of moves chosen by each player. Thus God selects the laws of
nature; being inherently statistical, they allow for chance events at the
quantum or chaos levels as well as for human agency. God need not violate these
laws in order to act, and there is room for human freedom and even for
inanimate systems to explore novel pathways.
The existence of these very
specific laws raises the question of cosmological design. Davies acknowledges
that anthropic arguments like his might be countered by a cosmic Darwinism,
such as the many worlds view provided by inflationary cosmology, but he gives
several reasons why he rejects these accounts. He then argues that
quasi-universal organizing principles will be found to describe
self-organizing, complex systems. They will complement the laws of physics, but
they would not be reducible to or derivable from physics, nor would they refer
to a mystical or vitalistic addition to them.
Davies sees his view of
divine action as going beyond ordinary uniformitarianism. Chance in nature is
Gods bestowal of openness, freedom, and the natural capacity for creativity.
The emergence of what he calls the order of complexity is a genuine surprise,
arising out of the order of simplicity described by the laws of physics. He
calls this teleology without teleology. The acid test, according to Davies,
is whether we are alone in the universe. If the general trend of matter toward
mind and culture is written into the laws of nature, though its form depends on
the details of evolution, we would expect that life abounds in the universe.
This accounts for the importance of the SETI project. Finally, Davies is open
to the possibility of combining his view with a non-interventionist account of
In his final section, Davies
addresses biologists who, he expects, will find the concept of teleology
without teleology favorable for two reasons. First, biologists have already
incorporated elements of self-organization and emergent complexity into the
neo-Darwinian account. Second, some biologists see evidence of complexifying
trends in biological phenomena. Finally, the theological interpretation he
advances would in no way be obligatory on others.
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