I leave the previous post as if in mid-thought, saying that the post-Big Bang separation between maximum and total entropy accounts for the possibility of order, not its actuality. God must still have played a crucial role in determining the natural laws. Quentin Smith objects to this idea on the following grounds:
If God intends to create a universe that contains living beings at some stage in it history, then there is no reason for him to begin the universe with an inherently unpredictable singularity. Indeed, it is positively irrational.
It is a sign of incompetent planning to create as the first natural state something that requires immediate supernatural intervention to ensure that it leads to the desired result.
The rational thing to do is to create some state that by its own lawful nature leads to a life-producing universe. (47)
Note that Smith by design uses an outdated and now rejected cosmology that postulated a “singularity” at the beginning of the universe, i.e., a zero-dimensional point with infinite temperature, density, etc. But the argument I am interested in will be unaffected by this aspect of it. Let’s assume that prime energy has been created.
Smith’s mistake is two-fold. In the first place he assumes that it is possible to seed a singularity such that it “by its own lawful nature” leads to the right kind of mature universe. It is contended precisely that created nature is not as potent and creative in its own right as God is creative. Smith shows no sign of recognizing the possibility that the natures of the initial singularity (or whatever the beginning of the universe consisted in) and of all of its states subsequent to Big Bang are so far removed from the nature of God that their power, unlike God’s, is fundamentally and inescapably limited.
Smith’s argument depends on the following premise:
(2) It is possible for God to create
[a] an initial state S that deterministically or probably evolves toward an animate universe; and it is possible for God to create
[b] an initial state S’ that does not deterministically or probably evolves toward an animate universe. (69)
I reject this: (2a) is manifestly impossible or at least wildly improbable as contradicting all our human experience, sophisticated science, as well as the entire theistic (as opposed to deistic) tradition. No initial state’s nature can “evolve” very far on its own power.
(Smith’s only alternative is to argue that the world might have been created fully formed the way it is now or was 6,000 years ago, as per the literal Genesis. This, he would maintain, would be more “efficient” and “graceful” and “aesthetically valuable” than the Big Bang + later divine “interventions.” This is an interesting idea, even if I do say so myself; however, I am not prepared to evaluate it at this point.)
But what nature alone cannot do, nature assisted by grace might. Grace in it numerous manifestations is essentially creation of information, imparting a form, defining things, eliminating chaos and formlessness in favor of definiteness and even beauty. Since the singularity is assumed by Smith to be utterly chaotic, with maximum entropy allowed by it, it was, like prime matter for the schoolmen, “pure potentiality,” formless void susceptible to being informed or made into something, into anything. And doing that was God’s job. Just as a sculptor does not go around looking for a lump of clay that can by itself transform itself into a precisely chiseled statue (an impossible quest anyway, if I am right), neither does God go around looking for a universe that can make itself. Rather, He wants matter which, though it has its own mind, He can guide, by actualizing some possibilities and setting aside others even without expending any energy, towards His chosen goal; matter which can be intelligently designed into a form.
Imparting grace is not therefore a crude “intervention” in the sense of a miracle, but subtle “informing” or imparting of information. Smith seems aware of the difference but not fully. God does not move around particles of matter; He manipulates possibilities, allowing some event to happen and precluding every other event. He “chooses between.” It is not that the “inherently unpredictable singularity” wanted, according to some natural law, to do X, and God violently coerced it toward Y. On the contrary, the universe was in principle undetermined, capable of resulting in X but also in Y, Z, etc.; the outcome would be randomly generated. Even if Y was the one desired result among millions of undesirable ones, guiding the evolution of natural laws, stars and the solar system, animals and humans, does not irrational God make, any more than sculpting an initially cubical piece of marble into a bust of Smith makes the sculptor irrational, because through his actions he has prevented any other form from being attached to the matter of marble.
(The efficient cause of the universe, i.e., its natural laws, is below and so part or aspect of the formal cause of the universe.)
Again, God does not break nature (especially before it was even made!) but bends it by substituting intelligent design for random variation.
How the probabilities for X, Y, … were distributed and whether a good world would be much less probable than all the bad worlds put together is scarcely important. God does not play dice with the universe at all, and in fact would not, even if the probability of a good world were 99%. He would still be obliged to get involved and collapse randomness intelligently.
In other words, it is eminently rational to go and get oneself some matter, potential to any form, and then hew at it and chip at it in such a way as to create something definite and beautiful. And no one will deny that this world seems beautiful sometimes.
See also: William Dembski, The Design Revolution, Ch. 20, “Nature’s Receptivity to Information.”