Monday, May 22, 2006

Küng on evolution

Review of Küng’s Der Anfang aller Dinge, section D, part 4.

3. Chance or necessity?

If the development of life, as Küng insists, is to be understood as a physical and chemical event without any divine ‘breaking of the rules’ at some stage, is everything simply pure chance? Is life, you, me, just an accident? Reiner Zufall?

Küng’s argument in this section is multi-layered. In noting the contribution of the late Jaques Monod (French Molecular Biologist and 1965 Nobel Prise Winner), he asks whether the Frenchman’s dispute with ‘animistic projections’ into the evolutionary process really can be taken as credible polemic against a creator God per se. In his response to Monod, Küng cites the Physiochemiker Manfred Eigen (University of Göttingen) who writes in the foreword of the German translation of Monod’s Chance and Necessity:

‘As much as the individual form thanks its origin to chance, as much as the process of selection and evolution is unavoidable necessity. Not more! Thus, there is no secret inherent ‘life-characteristic’ [Vitaleigenschaft – i.e. animism] in material which should in the end determine the process of history! But also not less!’ (cf. p. 160).
Küng, in quoting Eigen, aims to break down the inherent either/or, the either Zufall or theology in the rhetoric of those who affirm, as he does, evolution as explainable within the natural process of evolution.

This is, however, but the first step in his argument. Küng wants to, rather than positing chance or necessity, understand the notions as both/and.

Naturally with such language on the field, as a further movement Küng turns to investigate the contribution of Chaos theory. With this examination, Küng concludes more firmly: ‘Für die Erklärung der Evolution sind Zufall oder Notwendigkeit, Indetermination oder Determination, ja, Materialismus oder Idealismus faslche Alternativen’.

The evolution or life is, therefore, not chance or necessity. It is not an assertion of animistic life force or atheism. Fascinatingly, what this means, if the logic is pursued, is that God indeed appears to throw dice – but within certain rules.

The question then, however, becomes: But is it God who is throwing the dice? Küng's response to this queston shall be explored in the next post in this series.

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At 5/22/2006 7:40 PM, Anonymous Simon said...

Why does a god have to come into it?

At 5/23/2006 10:51 AM, Anonymous Exiled Preacher said...

Aren't the "rules of nature" just the customs of God? The laws of physics or chemistry only work with predictable regularity because: A) That is the way God made matter & B) God continues to uphold the physical universe in accordance with his purposes. All things are of God, through him and to him.

Guy Davies

At 5/23/2006 1:35 PM, Anonymous Shane Clifton said...

Chris - i have a small complaint. For those of us who are uneducated plebs, do you have to leave the german untranslated?

In response to that part of your analysis that was in english (which, to be fair, was the majority), surely Kung's logic is correct - chance is not random (as people assume when they read language such as "throwing the dice"), but operates within the context of natural laws. The question as to whether God is thus operating behind those laws is of a different order (metaphysical rather than strictly scientific), and is thereby a matter of faith (not fideism) - neither denied by nor supported by the theory of evolution.

At 5/23/2006 3:16 PM, Anonymous Jason Goroncy said...

Another question, this time to you Chris. How does a guy who is meant to be doing a PhD on Paul seem to get so much time to read Kung on evolution, not to mention all the other pots you seem to have your mind in?

At 5/24/2006 12:33 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Simon,
Well, that is the question! If God is anything like that Christians believe in, then the signposts to answering that question are not going to be simple for the blunt reason that this God is not an object or even an idea within our universe.
But I will offer some thoughts along this line in the following post(s) in this series - so stick around, your comments are welcome. Till then, I wish you the best.

Hi Guy,
Yes, actually I don't think Küng would deny that - I probably wasn't at my clearest in this post, sorry!

Hi Shane,
Es tut mir leid!
I was originally panning to translate the German, I just couldn't be bothered. But I'll put in a bit more effort next time!

As to the bulk of your comments - yes, I think he has to be corret to attempt to explode that either/or. There is only one thing in the whole book that I take significant issue with, and we will get to that in due time.

Hi Jason,
Usual method - neglect the wife

At 5/24/2006 11:30 AM, Anonymous Jason Goroncy said...

ouch... by the way Chris, will you be at the FEET conference in August?


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