Drees, Willem B. Gaps for God?
Willem B. Drees argues that
theories of chaotic and complex systems have made it clearer than ever before
that a naturalistic explanation of the world is possible, even in light of the
lack of predictability of these systems. These theories have effectively closed
certain gaps in our understanding of nature. He is therefore critical of John
Polkinghornes suggestion that the unpredictability of natural processes
provides a potential locus for divine action. Polkinghorne suggests that God
brings about an input of information into the world without an input of energy.
Drees claims that this is inconsistent with quantum physics and thermodynamics.
In addition, Polkinghorne seems to interpret the unpredictability of chaotic
systems as a sign of intrinsic openness, but this ignores the real meaning of
deterministic chaos. Moreover, discarding the theory of deterministic chaos
would be inconsistent with the very critical realism that Polkinghorne promotes.
However, denying any such
gaps within natural processes need not foreclose all options for a religious
view of reality. In fact Drees claims that science raises religious questions
about nature as a whole and about the most fundamental structures of reality.
To make his case, he distinguishes between two conceptions of explanation in
contemporary philosophy of science. Ontic views of explanation consider an
event explained if it is understood as a possible consequence of a causal
mechanism. Epistemic views of explanation consider phenomena and laws explained
if they are seen as part of a wider framework. Hence if one adopts an epistemic
view of explanation the framework itself still requires an explanation. Along
these lines, Arthur Peacocke and others have argued for divine action on the
whole of natural reality: God could cause specific events in nature via
top-down or whole-part causation. Drees, however, rejects the attempt to
extrapolate from the context of nature as environment to the concept of God as
the worlds environment.
Given the various problems
with attempts to envisage Gods action in
the world, Drees prefers to understand the world as Gods action. Whatever strength explanations have, there
always remain limit questions about reality and about understanding which allow
us to develop a religious interpretation of secular naturalism.
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