Creation and the World of Science

By A. R. Peacocke | Go to book overview

III
Chance and the Life-Game

I. CHANCE

IN the preceding lecture I referred frequently to the element of 'necessity' in the universe--the givenness, from our point of view, of certain of its basic features: the fundamental constants, the nature of the fundamental particles (and so of atoms, and so of molecules and so of complex organizations of molecules), the physical laws of the interrelation of matter, energy, space, and time. We were in the position, as it were, of the audience before the pianist begins his extemporizations--there is the instrument, there is the range of available notes, but what tune is to be played and on what principle and in what forms is it to be developed? Given the limiting features which constitute our 'necessity', how are the potentialities of the universe going to be made manifest? Monod's answer was that it is by 'chance', indeed man's emergence in the 'unfeeling immensity of the universe' was said to be 'only by chance'.1 So the question to which we now turn is that of the roles of chance and necessity or 'law'2 in the evolutionary process, in particular in the origin and development of living forms, and of the implications of this balance and interplay for discourse about belief in God as Creator. It will transpire that, by and large, I agree that

____________________
1
My italics.
2
'Necessity' was the word used by Monod in his Chance and Necessity ( Collins, London, 1972) to denote the deterministic aspect of natural processes. But we need also to refer to the basic 'givenness' of the features of the universe mentioned in the first sentence of this Lecture (i.e. the fundamental physical constants, the fundamental particles, as well as the physical laws of the interrelation of matter, energy, space, and time, and of other physical features of the universe). Because of this wider reference, I shall usually use the word 'law', rather than 'necessity', to refer to these 'given' aspects of the universe that include the statistical, apparently deterministic laws governing the behaviour of matter, at least above the sub-atomic level. These natural 'laws' provide the rules according to which the life-game is played.

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