Wednesday, January 6, 2016

God's Biological Processes

“The more we study biochemistry and cellular biology the more we become sure of God’s hand in every biological process.” This statement emerged from a conversation among friends recently as we discussed epigenetics, the topic of our last few posts. To those attuned to the orderliness and apparent purpose underlying biological processes we see operating in the natural world, such statements appear highly plausible.

Many professional scientists make a point of searching exclusively for natural causes and effects when studying biological processes in nature. For these scientists a theological dimension is not included as they address bioscience issues. They do not include a theological context for their observations. Apparent orderliness, purposefulness, and fine tuning of physical constants governing nature’s processes do not deter these professionals from exclusively focusing on natural causes and effects as they investigate, observe, and explain our biological environment. If all scientific conclusions are defined solely on a natural context, we are remiss to disregard the theological context.

Scientists investigate mainly natural phenomena. With respect to the dichotomy of natural vs supernatural, the nature of primary and secondary causation are related philosophical and theological questions. Specifically, empirical scientists study the reality of secondary causes. There would be no secondary causes, however, without a previously acting primary cause. Today’s scientists do not speculate on the nature of primary causes. Our blog has proposed that the Creator of Judeo-Christian scripture is the primary cause of all matter and energy along with physical constants and laws governing matter and energy. Thereafter, secondary causes operate, emplaced by God to sustain all events to follow.

We do not disparage study of natural phenomena or secondary causation. Scientists define their work with respect to natural, secondary causes. They research and describe cause and effect phenomena within the sphere of secondary causation. There is no error in this approach. If there is any scientific weakness, it may be  failure to acknowledge possible active agents at any point in the cause and effect sequence, particularly in the beginning. Scientists do not ordinarily speculate on the Primary Cause. For example, the incredible human genome and epigenome appears to originate in divine intelligence and agency. To those who subscribe to a theistic worldview, biological processes are plausibly linked with past agency of the Primary Cause—God—the Creator of all things.

The Creator has emplaced a marvelous functionality within biological systems. He authored the features of the genome with its coded DNA. He also authored the features of the epigenome of which we are discovering more with each passing year. This is known as secondary causality. God is the author of primary causality and the sustainer of secondary causality. The Christian theistic worldview embraces the ultimate truth of the previous statements.

God’s hand in every biological process? In the Christian/theistic worldview, we perceive God’s hand in every biological process. Christian theists should not be deterred by contemporary scientists’ rejection of a theistic context for their conclusions, knowing that contemporary scientists embrace naturalistic contexts for their conclusions concerning reality. We regret that theological contexts are not inherent in their conclusions concerning reality. But we rejoice that theological contexts are inherent as believers in the God of Creation inspect the world of living things, in particular, the world of humanity.