Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Breaking the Laws of Nature

The idea that miracles break the laws of nature is based on questionable assumptions. The idea is that the laws of nature are running the universe by their own motive force. Therefore, for God to intervene in it and work a miracle is an unacceptable disruption. But does this fit the facts?

This is based on the idea of a deducible universe. It holds that the physical laws are like mathematics. In mathematics you start with certain basic intellectually obvious principles, such as 2 + 2 = 4. The rest of the system is than deduced from these principles. There may be difficult problems, but they are the necessary result of reasoning from the first principles. Are the physical laws like this? The problem with answering this is that, after centuries of looking, we still have not reduced the physical laws to first principles. But every indication is they are likely to be something complicated and not intellectually obvious, but only understandable by experts. But whatever the basic principles, it is difficult to believe that, under current theories, we could deduce the universe from it, even theoretically. There is quantum mechanics, which says that in very small objects, all we can know about their behavior is probabilities. It also holds to incomprehensible things, like something being a wave and a particle at the same time.  There is chaos theory, which says long range behavior can depend on small differences in an object's initial conditions. All this calls into question whether we ever will be able to deduce the universe from basic principles.

A better concept for comparison would be that of the alphabet. It too starts with small elements which are arranged according to certain rules. But these rules are broad principles and do not determine  the final product. We cannot start with the alphabet and deduce Shakespeare's plays. Now it is not surprising that an orderly God would produce an orderly universe. Also, we need that order to function. It would be hard to live in a world where there was no discernible order. But it is also not surprising that when we examine it closely, it becomes probabilities and mysteries. The result is less like a machine and more like a poem. There needs to be a basic order for there to be a poem, or at least a comprehensible poem. But every line is from the Poet and none have an independent existence. And the Poet can vary the order of the poem to produce the effect He desires. He is not interfering with the poem, but adding to it the important variations that help explain the poem as a whole. But the Poet is not limited to working in variations, but every line of the poem is His composition and works to accomplish His purpose. Also, God's poem contains independent beings: angels, demons, and human beings, who contribute to the poem by their actions. But there never was any question of shutting the Poet out.

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