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From: "Daniel Fusch" <dfusch@hotmail.com>
Subject: (urth) natural theology, argument from design, Wolfe, and other matters
Date: Thu, 04 Nov 1999 15:57:35 PST


"I believe you are referring to "natural theology" or the argument from 
design, which is the belief that since the world was created by a 
supernatural being, we (humans) can detect the hand of this god in nature."

I think you may have a few very different things mixed up here.

The "argument from design" is a much more modern theological supposition 
that argues:

1) A design implies the existence of a designer.
2) The universe conforms to an orderly and precise design.
3) The universe implies the existence of its designer.

Natural theology, on the other hand, is a much older and more complex 
ideology. As I understand it, natural theology argues, among other things, 
that because the world was created by a supernatural being, that being can 
intervene in the affairs of the world, producing miracles.

Wolfe, however, is presenting us with a third set of philosophical 
suppositions, quite separate from these other two. (And I don't know whether 
Wolfe is advocating these ideas or not--remember that Wolfe often presents 
us with very different views on theology from different characters at 
different points in the book.) The view here is that:

1) The rational or physical explanation of a miracle does not make the 
miracle less miraculous.

2) A sort of chicken-and-the-egg paradox: did the miracle occur because of a 
particular law of physics, or was that law of physics established because 
the miracle needed to occur? (This is the sort of paradox that Wolfe is 
constantly bringing up.)

The second of these points in a philosophical puzzle. The first point is 
simply romanticism in a nutshell. That is, natural events are wondrous and 
miraculous regardless of their scientific explanation.

Do you remember that chapter in "Charlotte's Web" when Dr. Dorian tells 
Fern's mother that everyone has been so busy debating the recent miracles 
that they've lost sight of the notion that the spider's web itself is a 
miracle? That the spider's web-spinning instinct--and indeed all 
instinct--is itself a miracle? In other words, knowledge of biochemistry 
makes instinct no less miraculous.

Anyway, I think these are the ideologies at work in that passage.


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