View by:  Subject  Theme  Question  Term  Person  Event

Quantum-Based Proposals on Divine Action

The best way to compare theories of divine action in detail is to ask - what, for each theory, is ‘the causal joint’ at which God - as a transcendent, immaterial world cause - interacts particularly with causative factors in the material world?

One important approach to asserting particular providence through gaps in the causal order is to follow a suggestion first made by Pollard in 1958 and locate theologically-productive indeterminacy at the quantum level, rather than at the macroscopic level. This has the advantage that there is more general (though not universal) agreement that these systems are genuinely non-deterministic (see Shaking the Foundations: the implications of quantum theory).

So Thomas Tracy gives the following five types of divine agency, in addition to the initial creation:

  1. ‘God acts directly in every event to sustain the existence of each entity that has a part in it.’ [Conservation]
  2. ‘God can act directly to determine various events which occur by chance on the finite level.’ [Quantum-level intervention]
  3. ‘God acts indirectly through causal chains that extend from God’s initiating direct actions.’ [Amplification of effects at quantum level]
  4. ‘God acts indirectly in and through the free acts of persons whose choices have been shaped by the rest of God’s activity in the world.’ [Persuasion (presumably a function of 2. and 3.)]
  5. ‘God can also act directly to bring about events that exceed the natural powers of creatures, events which not only are undetermined on the finite level, but which also fall outside the prevailing patterns and regular structures of the natural order’ [Miracles - on these see also the question of miracle]The Tracy quotations and the basis of the titles of these different aspects of divine action are taken from Clayton, P, God and Contemporary Science [Edinburgh: Edinburgh Academic Press, 1997] p215

(The Tracy quotations and the basis of the titles are taken from Clayton 1997:215)

It is an interesting exercise to compare this list with the one given in An Introduction to Divine Action: Isaac Newton’s God. Note Philip Clayton’s comment: ‘all but the last of these five can be accepted without affront to natural law.’Clayton, 1997, 215

This seems at first sight a very promising way to combine the Christian belief in divine action with modern scientific perceptions of the world. But see criticisms of quantum-based proposals on divine action.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

Topic Sets Available

AAAS Report on Stem-Cells

AstroTheology: Religious Reflections on Extraterrestrial Life Forms

Agency: Human, Robotic and Divine
Becoming Human: Brain, Mind, Emergence
Big Bang Cosmology and Theology (GHC)
Cosmic Questions Interviews

Cosmos and Creator
Creativity, Spirituality and Computing Technologies
CTNS Content Home
Darwin: A Friend to Religion?
Demystifying Information Technology
Divine Action (GHC)
Dreams and Dreaming: Neuroscientific and Religious Visions'
E. Coli at the No Free Lunchroom
Engaging Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: An Adventure in Astro-Ethics
Evangelical Atheism: a response to Richard Dawkins
Ecology and Christian Theology
Evolution: What Should We Teach Our Children in Our Schools?
Evolution and Providence
Evolution and Creation Survey
Evolution and Theology (GHC)
Evolution, Creation, and Semiotics

The Expelled Controversy
Faith and Reason: An Introduction
Faith in the Future: Religion, Aging, and Healthcare in the 21st Century

Francisco Ayala on Evolution

From Christian Passions to Scientific Emotions
Genetic Engineering and Food

Genetics and Ethics
Genetic Technologies - the Radical Revision of Human Existence and the Natural World

Genomics, Nanotechnology and Robotics
Getting Mind out of Meat
God and Creation: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on Big Bang Cosmology
God, Humanity and the Cosmos: A Textbook in Science and Religion
God the Spirit - and Natural Science
Historical Examples of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)
History of Creationism
Intelligent Design Coming Clean

Issues for the Millennium: Cloning and Genetic Technologies
Jean Vanier of L'Arche
Nano-Technology and Nano-ethics
Natural Science and Christian Theology - A Select Bibliography
Neuroscience and the Soul
Outlines of the Science and Religion Debate (GHC)

Perspectives on Evolution

Physics and Theology
Quantum Mechanics and Theology (GHC)
Questions that Shape Our Future
Reductionism (GHC)
Reintroducing Teleology Into Science
Science and Suffering

Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action (CTNS/Vatican Series)

Space Exploration and Positive Stewardship

Stem-Cell Debate: Ethical Questions
Stem-Cell Ethics: A Theological Brief

Stem-Cell Questions
Theistic Evolution: A Christian Alternative to Atheism, Creationism, and Intelligent Design...
Theology and Science: Current Issues and Future Directions
Unscientific America: How science illiteracy threatens our future
Will ET End Religion?

Current Stats: topics: >2600, links: >300,000, video: 200 hours.