Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Creative God of Information vs. A Predictable God of Order

As promised, I want to try to relate information theory -- as discussed in Gilder's Knowledge and Power -- to theology.

It's a little frustrating, because it's a huge topic, and I barely have enough time to scratch the surface this morning. Rather, I can only provide some general outlines and directions, but I hope to begin fleshing things out on Monday (not sure about tomorrow). Anyway, don't jump to any conclusions just yet. It will all make sense in the end.

First of all, do we have any reason to believe that the structure of the cosmos reveals anything about God? I don't see why not; there's always something of the creator in the creation.

That word: creator. If God is a creator, then that alone is full of implications. For as Gilder writes, "creativity always comes as a surprise to us.... It is a high-entropy event. Innovations are not an expression of equilibrium and order, like crystals or snowflakes," but rather, "disruptions of it."

The question is, does creativity come as a surprise to God? Well, only if he is a creator. If he is not surprised by his creation -- and by the creativity of his creatures -- then he is something other than a creator, perhaps an "orderer," or mathematician, or playwright, or puppet master.

A God of this sort doesn't play dice with the cosmos, or with anything else, for that matter. In fact, he can't gamble at all, because he knows the outcome ahead of time. Sounds a little boring to me.

Furthermore, if God knows the outcome ahead of time, this erodes our free will, revealing it to be an illusion of temporality. Many Christians are fine with this, but I personally have issues with this type of omniscience.

Indeed, I think one of the most shocking implications of Christianity is the idea that the Creator submits himself to his own creation; that God genuinely offers himself to history, with no foreknowledge of what is going to happen -- because he is free, as are the human actors involved.

Isn't the whole pathology of the left encrapsulated in the pretext of foreknowledge of an open and undetermined future? Again, they try to impose order at the expense of information. But since the cosmos is in fact informational, this means that leftism fails because it doesn't comport with the nature of reality. As Gilder writes,

"No rational determinist scheme can encompass entrepreneurial entropy," because it "begins beyond the boundaries of settled rationality. As a form of new discovery, it passes Gödel's threshold, the point where all logical systems, including mathematics, exhaust their completeness. Entrepreneurship transcends certainty and enters the always-evanescent realm of creation."

So God is some kind of businessman and not just an isnessman? Not just O, but CEO?

Before you laugh -- or wince -- consider the fact that the essence of the trinitarian God involves transactional giving. Let's not idealize the individual businessman, but let's just consider why the free market works. It works because of "an imaginative sense of the needs of others," which, in aggregate, constitutes "a pattern of giving that dwarfs in extent and essential generosity any socialist scheme of redistribution."

As mentioned yesterday, I've been reading a book on process theology (not raccoomended to the casual or maybe even formal reader). I've always had problems with process theology; or perhaps it's just with the most prominent process theologians, who tend to use it to undermine orthodoxy and to promote radical environmentalism, hysterical feminism, Marxist liberation theology, and other pneumopathologies. These vertical activists blatantly use theology to legitimize their political and economic preferences.

But I think a genuine understanding of process theology goes in the opposite direction, for reasons alluded to above: because the cosmos is more like an informational organism than it is an ordered machine. This is why the cosmos is full of surprising developments that cannot be deduced from, much less predicted by, prior states; or as Gilder writes,

"[C]hemistry cannot be reduced to physics -- the density of information is much higher," just as "biology cannot be reduced to chemistry, or human creativity to biology." To simply shout evolution did it! is to beg the question entirely. Such simplistic notions "stop thinking rather than stimulate it."

So let's start thinking about this surprising cosmos of ours. Let's do like Hartshorne, for whom metaphysics was a "solemn vocation," involving "as a philosopher, the pursuit of the nature of reality, and as a theologian, the search for a rational foundation for religion" (McMurrin).


julie said...

So God is some kind of businessman and not just an isnessman? Not just O, but CEO?

There may be something to that. Otherwise, how could businesses at their best be so effective and produce so much good?

ted said...

There is this tension with God in process theology that is sometimes hard to reconcile. Where God is eternal, infinite, and changeless on one side, and constantly creating information on the other. I believe Norris Clark wrote about the change being informed by the eternal in ever new ways. The question that arises for me, does that mean first principles need to change also? I know the left can easily grab on to this (e.g. living Constitutions), but it does raise the question if we are posit that God can't be purely ordered.

Gagdad Bob said...

I think I figured out a way to get around the issues you raise.

ted said...

I look forward to the Coon-sights!

ge said...

Some of today's ruminations recalled Morman Nailer:

Mailer’s deity is much like Mailer. He or she is an artist—with the stipulation that God is the greatest artist—concerned most particularly with the human soul, but with much else besides. God takes great pleasure in his creations. God is constantly experimenting, and highly fallible. God is far from all-powerful, but is learning along with us. God is in constant struggle with his own fallibility, and also with evil—with the devil—and is not certain whether good will triumph in the end. We are God’s creations, but we are not at all times part of his plan—God may not even be cognizant of all that we do. And if God needs our love, the question Mailer insists has to be answered is, Why?

Like Emerson, Mailer borrows from countless other traditions, discarding their husks, or rewrites them. (Mailer allows that Jesus may very well have been the son of God, but thinks that his crucifixion and resurrection must have been a mistake and the mistake’s crude fix.) In place of heaven (his hell seems like a celestial DMV), Mailer posits a system of reincarnation retooled from the Indian religions. Karmic factors certainly play a role, but God’s creative interests, as well as his needs in his struggle with the devil, are more important. Not only bodies, but souls, too, can be eliminated for various reasons—sometimes they’re tired, sometimes simply because they’re no longer interesting to God. Evolution is God’s studio. Some of his creations work, and some need improvement—Mailer believes in a highly modified version of Intelligent Design...

Tony said...

Furthermore, if God knows the outcome ahead of time, this erodes our free will, revealing it to be an illusion of temporality.

Could you say more about your discomfort with this? I've always thought that yes, God can see the future since He is present to every moment of Time (Time being created). But that doesn't mean, at least in my understanding, that he has somehow rigged the future. We are free to do the things we're doing right now, which will lead to events perhaps unforeseeable by us. But the fact that God sees them doesn't mean that we're any less free. His circle of observation is simply wider, even to the point of including all of Time.

I've got to run at the moment, but I look forward to this whole thread.

Gagdad Bob said...

For Hartshorne, a lot of ideas about the nature of God are simply borrowed from Greece -- e.g., the unmoved mover -- and aren't even biblical at all. We shall see!

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

God's knowledge or foreknowledge does not mean ordination... it isn't clear whether foreknowledge means that he knows what will happen or all of what could happen. I think in the minimum he MUST know all of the possible paths things can take and is therefore prepared for them.

ge said...

'So God is some kind of businessman?'
Service Is Selling!
my 1st visit over at S.Cottage rewarded with this + more

mushroom said...

So, could we say that, instead of thinking of God as Architect, He's more like maybe the Choreographer or the Arranger? And He is also on bass, laying down the line for us.

Or, it's the symphony, and He's the conductor as well as composer. He knows the score, but He wants to hear it played in full.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

So what I mean, I guess, is that God must always be surprised at what happens even though he did foreknow it - remember how when Abraham is about to sacrifice Issac and the Lord is like, "Stop! Now I know you are faithful."

So he was prepared for that possibility even though it was by no means certain. Therefore there is a paradox of knowing and yet being surprised.

Just my two denarius.

Gagdad Bob said...

I like the idea of God providing the bass, ground notes, or chordal structure for our improvisation.

And as To RC's comment, there's no real reason why God must "know" the future, since the future doesn't exist. It isn't real. Rather, it's just "nothing" until it happens, so there's nothing to know.

If this is the case, it sure clears up a lot of fruitless paradoxes.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...


Still, foreknowledge is definitely a thing. For some things its obvious God knows them because he is going to do them, i.e. fulfilling of prophecies for instance.

But if, as I have suggested, the 'future' is a possibly-infinite set of possibilities, it cannot be concrete and therefore cannot be 'known' in the same way the present is known.

But yet, some things are possible while others are not - so there are certainly different levels of non-existence, or possible-existence.

It would seem that God's role through his energies is not to pre-determine outcomes but to ensure the final end of things, kind of like how an umpire doesn't favor a side but makes sure the sides play by the rules.

Ephrem Antony Gray said...

Come to think of it, Quantum computing kind of relates to this.

Finally, upon termination of the algorithm, the result needs to be read off. In the case of a classical computer, we sample from the probability distribution on the three-bit register to obtain one definite three-bit string, say 000. Quantum mechanically, we measure the three-qubit state, which is equivalent to collapsing the quantum state down to a classical distribution (with the coefficients in the classical state being the squared magnitudes of the coefficients for the quantum state, as described above), followed by sampling from that distribution. Note that this destroys the original quantum state. Many algorithms will only give the correct answer with a certain probability. However, by repeatedly initializing, running and measuring the quantum computer, the probability of getting the correct answer can be increased.

It is as though the future is in some kind of quantum state - that is to say, real but non-determined, and to go forward is to make it determined. In our experience, things cannot exist in contradictory states (non-contradiction) and therefore this quantum state, being one of contradiction, cannot be said to exist....

Which is another way of saying I think you're on to something, but what sort of 'nothing' is it?

Open Trench said...

Hello All:

This post and its resultant comment thread are magnificent. That such a debate occurs is inspiring. I am comforted by the presence of powerful minds at work.

Now,I throw in my own two cents because I can't seem to resist.

I have read that the mind cannot comprehend God and we must turn to a different faculty to have the knowledge.

We now bump against some kind of cognitive barrier and it cannot, despite effort, be pierced by even the strongest intellect.

To where then should we turn? What is the new faculty which will enable us to get the knowledge?

We are not disciples of a book, or many books, or a person, or any number of people. We are disciples of the Infinite.

Therefore, perhaps we should turn to the Source for knowledge of God. We can ask to be given the knowledge; let us do this as an experiment.

Tonight at the hour of sleep, address God: "Give me knowledge of You, God, and what You are, as I sleep this night, I request."

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Perhaps there are some things God Keeps from Himself.

Regardless, Bob, I think you make a good point about free will and surprise.

Open Trench said...

Hey Y'all.

Well I asked and here's what I got:

"Don't try to hack the Server"

Image: Huge thick dark wall: This is understood to be a firewall.

"Ask for a temporary password."

Image: smiling female Super-user ready to help.

"Please be ready to state your purpose."

Impression: General curiosity is not going to be pandered to. You must have a focused inquiry.

At that point I fell asleep but I'll try to get in tonight by asking for entry with the intention and purpose of increased love for my fellow beings via self knowledge. I hope this will not be too generic.

Impression: I may routed to the AKR, which divulges information on a "need-to-know" basis only, and I'll be back at square 1. But, we shall see.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Come to think of it, God couldn't possibly have Humor if He was just a big Statist, so to speak.
All the Omedy doesn't jest write itself.

Open Trench said...

Ben: I think you've got something there. I think humor is important to God and helps him get through his workday. We are his laugh generators and he loves watching us.