Las leyes de la naturaleza y la inmanencia de Dios en el universo en evolución

The laws of nature and the immanence of God in the evolving universe

Author: Archbishop Józef Zycinski. Archbishop of Lublin. Chancellor of the University of Lublin, Poland.
Published in: Scripta Theologica, 30, pp. 261-278.
Published in: Scripta Theologica, 30, pp. 261-278.

The problem of God's intervention in nature arises in the context of modern quantum cosmology, as it did in the 18th century with the commentaries on Laplace's mechanics and in the 19th century with the controversies raised by Darwin's theory of natural selection. Certainly, no one today would defend Samuel Clarke's concept of a God who supposedly fills in the gaps in Laplace's physics. There are, however, new attempts in which Clarke's old ideas return in subtle new ways without reference to his deistic idea of God. Instead of the classical gaps of Newtonian mechanics, we now find stochastic gaps or quantum micro-gaps in recent metaphysical commentaries on theories of physical chaos or models of quantum creation from nothing. In these commentaries, one distinguishes between the traditional concept of bottom-up causality that depends on the laws of nature and the so-called top-down causality, where different forms of divine action on the world are included. The latter develops the classical idea of decreatio continua by presenting a God who acts in the physical world as the principle of its organisation. Such an understanding of God can bring new information into the realm of natural phenomena.

In his model of divine action in nature, William Alston refers to the indeterminate character of the physical processes of the microworld. He seems to regard God's activity on an equal footing with that of natural causes when he argues: "perhaps God designed the universe to operate from agreement with laws of probability in order to reserve a space in which to act as an immediate agent" *(1) . In his attempt to justify a similar approach, John Polkinghorne argues that in Clarke's physico-theology "the gaps were epistemic, and therefore extrinsic to nature, mere patches on the scientific ignorance of the time. As they disappeared with the advance of knowledge, the "god" associated with them disappeared as well. No one should regret their oblivion, for the true God relates to the whole of creation, not just to its perplexing aspects". Contrary to Clarke's proposal, Polkinghorne reasons that God cannot be treated "as one cause among others" because his intervention in natural phenomena "is not energetic but informational". A form of intrinsic microvacuums is necessary in his suggestion, because "we are unashamedly 'people of the voids' in this intrinsic sense and there is nothing inadequate in a God of the voids in this sense either." *(2)

Leaving aside the terminology in which the nature of the various gaps is discussed, I argue that the main shortcoming of the proposal interpretation is that it cannot conceive of nature as a physically closed system, that is, a system in which physical phenomena are to be explained only by reference to other physical phenomena. Only at the level of human existence, when conscious processes occur, does God intervene by bringing new information to consciousness. The content of our consciousness cannot be explained by reference to purely physical determinants. This distinguishes mental systems from physical ones. In the latter, the so-called principle of methodological positivism, which underlies the progress of modern science, does not allow the scientist to refer to any extraneous factors to explain natural processes. For methodological reasons, when examining the chain of causal dependencies at the level of natural science, one can neither introduce into it the radical discontinuity, assuming a special divine intervention, nor a sequence of micro-discontinuities in which God's presence would be described in the language of information growth.

Certainly, this principle is methodological in nature. It does not exclude the existence of an extranatural agent that can be studied in philosophical research. It only brackets its role in the framework of the knowledge of natural science. In Polkinghorne's proposal this divine action does not imply falsifiable physical consequences. Like result, the God of the micro-hollows cannot be excluded from nature with the progress of natural science. This essentially distinguishes Polkinghorne's theory from the attitude defended by Samuel Clarke in the past.

In this article, after critically studying some new models of God's intervention in nature at the microcosmic level, I attempt to defend the thesis that God's immanence in nature is expressed in cosmic order and evolutionary novelty. Among many physical forms of manifestation of divine immanence we should note in particular:

  1. The very existence of the laws of nature in an otherwise lawless world;

  2. The emergence of new attributes that constituted the realm of pure possibilities in earlier stages of the evolution of the cosmos.

The present article is written within the epistemological framework of philosophy. For this reason, I do not discuss the status of theological facts such as the Incarnation or the Resurrection. The revealed truth concerning the latter leads to a radically new perspective in which one transcends purely rational philosophical enquiry and discovers a God quite different from the intellectual schemes of human logic.

The laws of physics and the absence of God

In 1889 Aubrey L. Moore wrote in his commentaries on the Darwinian theory of evolution that this theory is more Christian than the "special creation" theory because it implies the constant immanence of God in evolving nature. He reasoned: "those who oppose the doctrine of evolution as advocating a "continuous intervention" of God do not seem to have realised that a theory of occasional intervention implies a theory of ordinary absence" *(3) . This lack of logical sequence in explaining God's immanence in nature has also been a problem a century later. In 1991, when confronted with the same problems, Owen Thomas sarcastically admitted: "theologians are still prattling on about God's activity in the world, and there are still only a few who stop to consider some of the many problems implicit in such prattling" *(4) .

In traditional attempts to answer the question concerning the interaction between God and nature, reference was made to God's action when scientists could not identify any natural phenomena that could explain proven empirical effects. Such a procedure seemed risky from the point of view of the scientific development because many phenomena that were supposed to be explained theologically later found a natural explanation. God, who had originally been introduced as a necessary cause, became a useless hypothesis once the gaps of scientific observation had been filled in.

The reference to the God of these "gaps" who enters the history of the world mainly by means of occasional interventions was not tenable in view of modern methodological principles, adopted since Galileo. Although he never denied the value of theological explanation, Galileo argued in his "Dialogue" that, for methodological reasons, all theological factors should be excluded from the scope of astronomical research. If, in the spirit of medieval astronomy, one refers to the role of angels in explaining the motion of the stars, one can always turn to such a hypothesis to explain any set of empirical data. Like result, in such approaches astronomy would be reduced to a branch of applied angeology *(5) .

Galileo's methodological distinctions implied what today we call the principle of methodological positivism. At the beginning of modern science, they seemed unacceptable to Gabriel Naude, who accused Girolamo Borro of atheism because he denied the existence of the empirical heavens*(6) . Naude's main argument can be summarised as follows: "if there is no empyrean, there is no God". Today the combination of the empyrean theory with atheism may seem extravagant. We find, however, a new version of Naude's philosophy in Hawking's model of quantum creation from nothing*(7) . Hawking's assertion "if there is no boundary, there is no creator God" expresses the essence of the same philosophy that we find in Clarke's gaps and Naude's empyrean. Terminological preferences aside, the reference to "the boundary", "the gap" or "the empyrean" implies the breaking of natural laws and makes it psychologically easier to search for the supernatural.

Hawking himself, in his justification of the "no boundary" argument, tries to make his reasoning more rational not by reference to the psychological but to the methodological factor. In replying that there is no God in this model but that the boundary itself plays the role of a quasi-divine principle, he argues: "if we could show that we could explain everything in the universe on the hypothesis that there is no boundary, I think this would be a much more natural and economical theory" *(8) . Many authors share this view and do not accept Moore's concept of a God hidden in the laws of nature because they are concerned that any attempt at theological interpretation of the laws of nature would be seen as contrary to the basic principles of interpretative economics. Why allude to a God immanent in a nature in order when the very notion of physical order suffices to investigate the phenomena under investigation? This subject of methodology can be justified at the level of natural investigations. However, it cannot be justified at the level of philosophical explanation.

Our acceptance of epistemological simplicity and economy of explanation led to the well-known principle of Ockham's razor. This principle, however, is methodological in nature, not doctrinal. It might inspire an effective procedure researcher , but it cannot provide simple answers to complicated metaphysical questions. Even at the level of physical research, this principle often played a negative heuristic role. Its critics point to numerous examples of the detrimental consequences of its application in science. It is true that in the 19th century the resource to Ockham's razor delayed the development of extragalactic astronomy for almost a hundred years. Dogmatic adherents to Okham's principle argued at that time that there are no extragalactic objects because all observed astronomical phenomena can be explained more economically by reference to objects in our galaxy. This quest for simplicity resulted in a false cosmological model . As a consequence, a programme of "de-Ockhamisation" has been promoted in contemporary philosophy of science in which Ockham's principle has a relative, not an absolute, value.

Can this same principle justify the absence of God in the philosophical interpretation of nature? Can our reference to the laws of nature render useless any allusion to God, the Creator? My answer to these questions is negative because the basic notions of the laws of physics and nature remain fuzzy as long as we do not refer to God as the ultimate sustainer of the physical order.

God as the sustainer of the cosmic order

While modern technology provides spectacular confirmation of the practical applications of the laws of nature, contemporary philosophy of science still cannot determine the status of the laws of nature. Two main interpretative propositions are to be found in the so-called "regularity theory" and in the necessary explanation of the laws of nature. The first is defended by the empiricist tradition, the second mainly by the various versions of Neoplatonic philosophy. According to the regularity theorists, the laws of nature are nothing but regularities observed in nature. In the spirit of Hume's critique of the idea of causality, they hold that all statements about the same law of subject (x) (Fx=>Gx) merely affirm a constant conjunction of certain phenomena F and G. From this point of view, reference to a vague concept of physical necessity is avoided and psychological intuitions or common evidence are considered as the ultimate criterion for explaining the order observed in nature. Necessitarian theory holds that the essence of the laws of nature cannot be reduced to the level of observed regularities, because the latter presuppose the existence of hidden necessary links (= purely possible regularities) that constitute the order of nature, even if in a specific situation no empirical procedure reveals a physical sequence of these links.

The simple identification of the laws of nature with observed regularities cannot explain at least two important elements:

  1. That regularity itself is not a sufficient condition to be a law of nature, since we have many uniformities that cannot be considered laws of nature (e.g. no lake contains pure Pepsi Cola).

  2. That the observed regularity is not a necessary condition to be a law of nature, because there are probability laws that allow for point irregularities, as in stochastic processes when only on a large scale do we discover statistical regularities.

If we try to answer the question of what the expression "laws of nature" means, we have to face two questions: What does the implication operator => mean when we express a law of nature with the formula: (x) (Fx=>Gx)? How to explain the relation of physical necessity between F and G, when it would be psychologically easier to conceive the universe as an uncoordinated chaos without necessary links between phenomena, without order or universal laws? Certainly, some positivist-oriented authors may reject all the questions of this subject as sterile and meaningless. This practice seems to me, however, neither intellectually satisfying nor heuristically useful for the progress of science. Contrary to this line, many modern physicists go beyond empirically proven theories and ask the following questions:

  1. Why are there universal laws of physics at all?

  2. Why does this particular set of laws occur in nature, and are these laws absolute in the sense that alternative laws cannot be given?

  3. Why can we describe complex physical processes using simple mathematical formulae?

Similar questions cannot be answered at the level of scientific explanation. They require philosophical answers that must not be subjected to Ockham's razor, the efficient razor only at the level of enquiry characteristic of the natural sciences. Questions of order, necessity and predictability belong to the classical topics of metaphysics. Science cannot answer them for the same reason that it cannot provide a mathematical description of human goodness. However, we can find rational answers if we treat seriously the philosophical doctrine of a God immanent in nature. Paul C. Davies adopts this doctrine when he reasons in his Templeton Lecture: "the idea of a God who is just another force or agent functioning in nature, moving atoms here and there in rivalry with physical forces, is deeply disheartening. To me, the real miracle of nature is to be sought in the ingenious and indesviable lawfulness of the cosmos, a lawfulness that allows complex order to emerge from chaos, life to emerge from inanimate subject , consciousness to emerge from life, without the need for any supernatural coup; a lawfulness that produces beings that not only raises great questions about existence, but which, through science and other modes of enquiry, is even beginning to get answers" *(9) .

Certainly, not all authors will follow Davies in his theological comments on lawfulness*(10) . Not all physicists share this amazement at the fact that there is order, rather than disorder, in nature. Statistical unanimity never stands as the ultimate criterion of truth, neither in philosophy nor in science. In the long tradition of European metaphysics there were many authors who found intellectually inspiring the question: why is there being when there could be nothingness? This question, dismissed as trivial only by positivists, can be expressed in physical terms: why, in general, are there physical laws if nature could only have been uncoordinated disorder?

Depending on philosophical preferences, various authors, in answering this question, allude to the immanence of God in nature or to the divine mind underlying physical laws. They speak of the Neoplatonic Logos or the Absolute of the philosophers to present the cosmic order as another name for the immanent God. Adherents of agnosticism, such as Heinz Pagels, refer only to the cosmic code. All these expressions refer to the same reality which in the Neoplatonic tradition was called the cosmic Logos and was understood as a cosmic principle of order immanent to the laws of nature. This principle was to be ontologically prior to any physical process, which is only an example of the relations determined by the laws in question. The existence of the Logos, conceived in this way, seems to be implicitly assumed even by authors who develop ideas explicitly opposed to any form of deistic interpretation. For example, Hawking, in his famous proposition of the creation of the universe as a quantum object, implicitly assumes that in the neighbourhood of the "borderless state" our logical principles and the basic concept of rationality still rule. If one does not accept these assumptions, one cannot eliminate the possibility that before the boundaryless state there existed different universes with different laws than our laws of nature, different mathematical principles, etc. These universes could have been subject to physical laws unknown to our science. Their evolution could have developed, for example, from agreement with the logic of our dreams, while the "original" unbounded state would be just one more, which takes place from time to time in the discontinuous process of cosmic progress. From this perspective, Hawking's "boundaryless" state of creation would be considered only as a relative beginning of a new stage in cosmic evolution, not an absolute beginning. Without auxiliary assumptions it seems methodologically impossible to demonstrate that in a discontinuous evolving universe this state might not be preceded by other physical states subject to different physical and logical laws. The pre-existence of a cosmic Logos defining a set of basic principles of scientific rationality seems therefore necessary to demonstrate that this state can be considered as the border state not preceded by any physical phenomenon.

One may try to defend Hawking against the above objection by arguing that in his model we cannot meaningfully ask what was before "boundaryless" time because to time described by imaginary coordinates one cannot apply the very concept of chronological precedence in its classical sense. To evaluate such an objection one must answer the question whether Hawking assumes the epistemology of realism in his cosmology or whether he is just an instrumentalist who constructs mathematical models and avoids the question of their correspondence with real processes in the physical world. In his "A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes", several statements suggest that the author rejects scientific realism in favour of cognitive instrumentalism. For example, he describes as "meaningless" the question of whether the time of our physical experience corresponds to the real or imaginary coordinates of the space-time representation of relativity theory. He argues that scientific theories do not describe reality but are mere mathematical models describing realities "only of our minds" *(11) . After such a serious statement, one is surprised to read, two pages later, that physical cosmology is so successful in "describing events" and cosmic laws that in its picture of an absolutely self-contained and borderless universe there is no room for a Creator or for theological theories. These reasonings contradict each other. When one rejects realism in discussing the nature of time one cannot argue that God does not exist objectively. One can only argue that there is no place for God either "in our mind" or in a particular model . Such a claim can hardly qualify as inventive. Cosmological models that grant physical place to God would thus imply nothing more than a familiar return to a pre-Galileo methodology.

The cosmic Logos mentioned above is described in various philosophical schools as the Absolute, the field of rationality, the field of form, and so on. To avoid terminological debates and to shed new light on the nature of this Logos, we can define its nature in the language of the relationships that determine both cosmic evolution and its scientific study. In this subject of relationships one can distinguish a proper subgroup of relationships that are exemplified in physical processes as well as in eventual scientific procedures. In our physical world, for example in the hadron era, no laws of galaxy evolution were exemplified, since there were no galaxies at this time. In the research practice of medieval physics no procedure of standardisation was accepted because quantum phenomena were unknown at that time. Consequently we can argue that the initial Logos containing all scientific principles and physical laws is only partially exemplified in the cosmic Structures existing today and in the process of progress of science. Its reality is revealed in the observed physical phenomena through their conformity to the principles of theoretical Physics, which implies both the effectiveness of this Physics in predicting new facts and the effectiveness of the language of mathematics in describing physical phenomena.

In describing God's presence in the evolving universe one can refer to various modes of existence in different cosmic epochs. At our phylogenetic development level the species homo sapiens remains especially attracted by the interaction between individual macro-objects and by the aesthetic experience of the beauty of nature. Evolutionary processes played a decisive role in making the human eye sensitive to electromagnetic waves within the band 8x10-5 - 4x10-5cm. and the ear to frequency sounds within the band 16hz - 20x103hz. These biological dispositions were formed in human organisms only in the most recent period of cosmic evolution. Combining the immanence of God with a psychologically strong experience of nature therefore seems a late invention that was impossible during the previous billions of years in cosmic evolution. When we explore these earlier stages of evolution, we come to a time when no individual macro-objects existed. For example, in the lepton era there were no planets, no rocks, no flowers and no birds. Can we speak of the immanence of God in nature when we try to dispel the anthropocentric view of the universe? In what sense can we speak of the immanence of God when cosmic space was full of electrons, mesons and neutrinos? In metaphysical terms we can consider all these particles as contingent beings and relate them to the divine Absolute as the ultimate reason for a "creatio continua". In the new cosmological proposals that deal with the original creation from nothing we find solutions where originally neither particles nor any physical substrate existed. For example, in the aforementioned model Hawking-Hartle of creation in the original unbounded state there are no physical objects except the laws of quantum cosmology, universal principles of logic and the wave function of the universe. When we speak of the immanence of God in this universe we can refer to his existence only in the universally valid links that seem physically or logically necessary. The subsequent cosmic evolution can be described on the basis of these laws. They are thus regarded by philosophers as an expression of the cosmic Logos ultimately founded in the divine Absolute. Since all physical events constituting the further stages of cosmic evolution are subject to these laws, it is justified to speak of the presence of God immanent in all physical processes.

Two basic forms of God's immanence in nature

In explaining the immanence of God in nature, Thomas Aquinas distinguished God's presence by his power, essence and omniscience (S. Th. q. VIII, a. 3). This theory of immanence was developed almost five centuries before the finding of Newton's basic principle of dynamics. At this time mathematics had already been applied to the description of the orbit of the planets but its role in terrestrial physics was not yet clear, especially after the failure of Nicolas Oresme to describe human emotions mathematically. The surprising role of rational elements in the exploration of physical processes was demonstrated by Newton when on the basis of his mathematical calculus he questioned the adequacy of the empirical data provided by John Flamsteed on the basis of telescopic evidence. This procedure may have been considered controversial by adherents of empiricist methodology, who emphasise the role of inductive reasoning in science. In fact, it merely expressed the basic conviction that scientific research does not aim at a simple description of observed facts but at the finding of the hidden stable relationships exemplified by physical processes.

These relations of a stable nature that make it possible for us to speak of rational cosmic Structures are often described in terms of physical necessity. Thanks to Alvin Plantinga's profound analysis, the positivist opposition between logically necessary propositions and contingent physical laws *(12) can no longer be defended. The explanations offered by modern theoretical physics cannot be considered satisfactory unless we re-establish the scholastic notion of "necessity de re".

The physically necessary connection of natural phenomena is expressed in nature in basically two ways:

  1. in an eventually observed set of physical and biological laws;

  2. in the theoretically possible evolution of physical systems predetermined by the laws of nature even if these laws remain unexemplified at certain stages of cosmic evolution.

For psychological reasons, the study of the second possibility seems more interesting because it reveals the failure of empiricist philosophies to explain the nature of the cosmic order. A God manifesting himself in evolutionary novelty, which in earlier times was only a pure possibility, led to passionate discussions with the advent of Darwin. On the other hand, the same God of cosmic novelty had been described by St. Augustine and Nicholas of Cusa as the ultimate foundation of cosmic change.

The immanence of God as a set of unexemplified possibilities

Why were the proponents of God's immanence in nature unwilling to consider the laws of nature as an expression of His nature? Why did they rather tend to see God in extraordinary events, especially when they contradicted the laws of nature? How to explain that the concept of "creatio continua" has caused such a fuss even now that different "mechanisms" of creation out of nothing are described in many scientific theories?

Certainly, the present state of the philosophy of the immanence of God depends on the collision of explanations proposed in theology and the natural sciences. In the academic practice of scientific progress, reference to the laws of nature often had as result the elimination of earlier theological and pseudo-theological theories. It suggested the idea that God was sought either in the absence of physical laws (the God of the holes) or in capricious behaviour contrary to the laws of physical determinism. While pantheistic philosophy attempted to equate God and nature, Spinoza's critics developed an opposite approach in which God was just the opposite of natural causes. As a consequence, instead of Spinoza's adage "Deus sive Natura", we find the sentence "aut Deus aut Natura". This new opposition was the reason for not sharing the position of Christian authors inspired by the phrase "order, number and measure" (Sap. 11,20), as well as by the Vulgate translation of Rom. 13,1: "quae a Deo sunt, ordinata sunt". Supporters of this position in the past have developed, in the School of Chartres in the 12th century, the idea of the universe as an "ordinata colectio creaturarum".

Why should we abandon as unfounded this tradition in which the immanence of God was sought in unpredictable events rather than in the order of causal regularities? This is probably also the consequence of an inadequate attitude of respect towards the thesis of God's transcendence in relation to nature. It seemed more reasonable to look for this transcendence in miraculous events than in constant regularities subject to the universal laws of nature. We find all extraordinary events psychologically interesting, while repetitive regularities seem trivial and obvious.

The acceptance of God's immanence in the laws of nature does not contradict the thesis of his transcendence. A God hidden beneath physical and biological laws cannot be reduced, pantheistically speaking, to the level of the natural order. In order to defend that He is above the order of nature we must not, however, deny His immanent presence in observable regularities. God's immanence in nature and His transcendence can be reconciled in the so-called philosophy of panentheism (there are various versions of it. In its most general form this philosophy argues that God's being is not only immanent in nature, by including the whole universe and permeating it, but also transcendent in the sense that the universe does not exhaust God's being). St. Paul the apostle is considered its protagonist when he speaks of the world inhabited by the immanent God in whom "we live and move and possess our being" (Acts 17:28).

The thesis of the immanent presence of God in the laws of nature is not to be regarded as a consequence of the empiricist attitude in which suggestive observed regularities are identified with God. On the contrary to such suggestions, it implies the overcoming of epistemological empiricism because in the process of cosmic evolution these natural laws, which had not shown themselves in previous cosmic epochs, play an important role. For example, in the hadronic era of cosmic evolution neither Kepler's laws concerning the motion of the planets nor the biochemical laws of human metabolism had been exemplified, because there were no planets and no human metabolisms at that time. The unexemplified laws of nature revealed their actual existence in the process of cosmic evolution when more complex Structures emerged. An empiricist or an agnostic might regard this emergence as a consequence of more fundamental laws or as a fact resulting from the combination of accidental physical conditions. Moreover, for a theist the emergence in question reveals a God who intervenes in the process of "creatio continua".

The immanence of God in (non-exemplified) natural laws constitutes the ultimate foundation of cosmic rationality because these laws determine the scope of possible cosmic evolution. The analogy with Heinz Pagel's genetic code seems appropriate here to explain the role of a God who influences the process of cosmic evolution. At development in the biological sciences, the role of genetic factors was long misunderstood when advocates of the preformation theory believed that the properties encoded in human embryos exist in the same way as the physical properties of adult individuals. In this common-sense empiricism, they argued only whether the unmeasured sequences of human beings pre-existed in Eve's ovary or Adam's sperm. The emergence of modern genetics required the overcoming of common sense stereotypes and the introduction of new categories far removed from naive empiricism.

The possible objects of Nicholas of Cusa's ontology

In contemporary debates concerning the ontological status of so-called possible worlds (or possible objects) the most adequate explanation of the results of contemporary science seems to come from the viewpoint of modal actualism in the versions developed by Alvin Plantinga and Robert Stalnaker*(13) . This explanation of the nature of possible objects remains particularly close to the philosophical position developed in the 15th century by Nicholas of Cusa. In his dialogue De possest the cardinal argues that through the study of visible objects we can discover both the unactualised invisible possibilities and their invisible Creator. Observation of the essence of visible physical phenomena directs our attention to their creative agent, who brings them into actual existence. agreement According to the teaching of St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans (1, 20), in the created world we discover both the immanent and the transcendent Creator, in whom all possibilities are found unrealised before their actualisation in the visible world*(14 ) . Since all beings are found in God, the process of cosmic changes reveals the presence of an immanent God who unfolds the possible by making it actual. God, conceived by Nicholas of Cusa as "posse ipsum", constitutes the ultimate rationality of cosmic evolution and renders the cosmic order rational not only at the level of observed regularities but also at the level of the unactualised possibilities of physical progress *(15) . Its role cannot be reduced to that of an additional factor filling in the newly discovered gaps in our knowledge, because it overcomes the basic distinction between the possible and the actual. By determining the realm of the possible, it constitutes the ultimate reason for the rationality of the cosmos and defines its laws of physical-biological evolution. This form of immanence in nature can be described in universal categories. On the other hand, its creative presence can be discovered in particular processes in which there are actualised events that originally belonged to the realm of pure possibilities. These two forms of God's immanence in the cosmic order, the statically or dynamically conceived order, represent the two basic forms of God's intervention in nature. The laws of nature and evolutionary novelties can be seen as their replicas in modern science.

The "Deus absconditus" in the history of the cosmos

Instead of the God hidden in Heisenberg's uncertainty, expressed either in the so-called physical chaos or in quantum fluctuations, we propose a model in which the role of God immanent to the history of the cosmos is contained in what we metaphorically call the "boundary conditions". The expression denotes theologically conceived boundary conditions in which non-physical factors (biological, psychic, spiritual, e.g.) are also taken into consideration in a system considered "from God's point of view" (again the metaphor). The history of the cosmos and the history of our individual existence runs as it does because for an omnipotent and timeless God at the time of the initial creation all data concerning the future physical and biological evolution were already known. He must not secretly enter the realm of nature, remaining hidden, for example in quantum intervals, because as cosmic Logos he was able to define his specific role in these "boundary conditions". In these conditions, its potential responses to possible human behaviour, our free actions, prayers, etc. were already contained. Attracted by the persuasiveness of the concrete, so suggestive of our phylogenetic propensity, we are often predisposed to look for God in special interventions and specific gaps in the human knowledge . Contrary to our psychological tendencies, He is rather the God of wholeness than the God of the gaps in our knowledge.

The proposed model must not imply any form of reductionist pandeterminism conceived either logically or ontologically. One cannot object that in this model our prayers are useless, because everything was established by God "ab aeterno". Such an argument would be unfair at least at the 1) theological, 2) personal and 3) epistemological levels. From the point of view of theology, one cannot imagine predicting the future of the cosmos and human evolution on the basis of knowing the "boundary conditions" of the evolving universe. When all theological aspects are considered, these conditions "ex definitione" are considered in the system that only God conceives and therefore may contain information that transcends the human mind. In this system, the so-called "foreknowledge of God" remains no more than knowledge independent of time in which all data, including our prayers, are weighed by a timeless God in an eternal "now".

In the personal reference framework , we can distinguish the "physical" state of the praying person and some principles concerning the reality of grace, just as we distinguish physical conditions and laws of nature in scientific explanation. Prayer changes the status of the praying person (this change need not necessarily relate to physical properties. It may relate to mental states or spiritual motives) and creates a new possibility for the action of grace in our life. This action was foreseen ab aeterno by God. Its immanence in the life of the particular human person depends on this person's cooperation with the action of grace. Therefore, one cannot argue that the evolving universe merely unfolds possibilities predetermined by God and independent of all human action.

From the point of view of epistemology, we must even take into consideration the possibility that the universe, in its overall structure already logically described, is still a counterpart of a rich logical system in which Gödel's incompleteness theorem holds. As result, in such a system there must be problems that cannot be solved using any coherent system of algorithms. In a non-trivial structure of relations exemplified in physical phenomena, a form of ontological incompleteness may manifest itself in such a way that any form of reductionist philosophy must collapse, because some phenomena cannot be reduced to a few basic principles in the same way that in developed logical systems some sentences cannot be deduced from accepted axioms. Roger Penrose provides the problem of human consciousness as an example of problems of this subject, when he argues that perhaps the human brain is a kind of computer, but it has been programmed by "the best programmer in the guild". "We cannot know this mysterious algorithm, but God knows it, and it was He who put it into us, rather than it arising through a process of natural selection" *(16) .

Although I am a supporter of the above argument, I am not a supporter of Penrose when he opposes the idea of God to that of natural selection. Psychic phenomena probably cannot be reduced to their physical-biological substrate. Certainly, God put these phenomena in us. It would, however, be risky theology to suggest to him that he should have done so in a special intervention and not in the process of natural selection. Leaving aside the detail of Penrose's reasoning, I would like to insist that the reasoning itself suggests the interpretative possibility that the traditional distinction between physical and logical objects can be overcome in the cognitive framework of cosmology when we try to determine the deeper structure of the universe. In his comments on the contemporary search for Theories of Everything, John D. Barrow intuits this possibility, suggesting that in its deepest structure the universe is not a grand symmetry but a computation. He argues: "the ultimate laws of nature can be likened to software running on the hardware provided by elementary particles and energy. The laws of physics can thus be derived from some more basic principles governing computation and logic. This perspective could have radical consequences for our appreciation of the subtlety of nature, since it seems to require that the world be discontinuous at root, like computation, rather than a continuum" *(17) .

Considering the basic structure of the universe as a continuum is relevant for our concept of the rationality of the cosmos and for acceptable explanatory models. It does not, however, influence the substance of the reasoning cited for the immanence of God in nature. Whether we consider the universe as a continuum of laws and symmetries or as a process of discontinuous computations, the divine immanent Logos manifests its presence both statically in the cosmic universal laws already exemplified, and dynamically, in the process of actualisation of events which in earlier stages were no more than pure possibility. In this framework, the process of uninterrupted creation reveals the same Logos that was already contained in the logical structure of the "boundary conditions".

Certainly, there are many psychological issues that arise when we consider God in a purely rational way as the principle of cosmic order and evolutionary novelty. This view creates many problems in the context of existential experience, especially when many dramatic questions of our time are asked. When we propose the problem of the immanence of God in the laws of nature we cannot avoid the disturbing question: Was God present in the crematoria of Auschwitz? There is a certain irony in the fact that the crematoria in question operated according to standard thermodynamic principles and that the silent God was present at the very heart of the most painful human experience. To understand both his presence and his silence one has to refer to the drama of Christ on the cross. One cannot explain the drama of Golgotha in rational terms of common logic. God is not only in laws but also in love and suffering. The means chosen by Him to redeem His People transcend our psychological stereotypes and our rational speech . They seem to indicate that the God present in nature is not only immanent in the cosmic order but transcends it as well as any form of order.



  1. W. P. Alston, Divine Action, Human Freedom and the Laws of Nature, in R.J. Russell, N. Murphy, C.J. Isham (eds.),Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, Vatican Observatory Publications 1993, p. 189; ID., Divine Nature and Human Language: Essays in Philosophical Theology, Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1989, pp. 197-222.

  2. J. Polkinghorne, The Laws of Nature and the Laws of Physics, in Quantum Cosmology and the Laws of Nature: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, Vatican Observatory Publications 1993, p. 446.

  3. A. L. Moore, The Christian doctrine of God, in C. Gore (ed.), Lux Mundi, Murray, London 1989, p. 73.

  4. O. Thomas, Recent Thought on Divine Agency, in B. Hebblethwaite , E. Henderson (eds.), Divine Action, T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1991, pp. 35-50.

  5. A. Favaro (ed.), Le opere di Galileo Galilei, Barbera, Florence 1890, V, p. 316; VII, pp. 263 and 325.

  6. G. Spini, The Rationale of Galileo's Religiousness, in Galileo Reappraised, University of California Press, Berkeley 1966, p. 56.

  7. J. B. Hartle, S. Hawking, Wave Function in the Universe, in "Physical Review D" 28 (1983) 2960-2975.

  8. R. Weber, Dialogues with Scientists and Sages: the Search for Unity, Routledge, London 1986, p. 214.

  9. P. C. Davies, Physics and the Mind of God, "First Things" 55 (1995) 34.

  10. ID, Paul Davies & critics, "First Things" 58 (1995) 2-6.

  11. S. W. Hawking, A Brief History of Time: From the Bing Bang to the Black Holes, Bantam, New York 1988, p. 139.

  12.  A. Plantinga, The Nature of Necessity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1978.

  13.  A. Plantinga, R. Stalnaker, The Possible and the Actual: Readings in the Metaphysics of Modality, (Michael Loux, ed.), Cornell University Press, Ithaca and London 1979.

  14. De possest 5, 3ff; 14,3-8. Nicolai of Cusa, Opera omnia, Vol. 11, Felix Meiner Verlag, Hamburg 1973. A good presentation of Cusa's philosophy can be found in: "American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly" 64/1(1990), edited by Louis Dupré.

  15. P. J. Casarell, Nicholas of Cusa and the Power of the Possible, in "Amer. Cath. Philos. Quart." 64/1 (1990) 7-34.

  16. R. Penrose, Must mathematical physics be reductionist?, in E.J. Cornwell (ed.), Nature's Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1995, p. 25.

  17. J. D. Barrow, Theories of Everything, in J. Cornwell (ed.), Nature's Imagination. The Frontiers of Scientific Vision, Oxford University Press 1995, p. 62.