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The World as God’s Body

In the case of minds affecting bodies - say by lifting an arm - there is a readily observable interplay between brain states, nerve fibres, muscle states, and molecular states, all of which interact as the arm moves. If this is to serve as a model for Divine action we must be able to reasonably describe the Universe as God's body. I'm really not sure how to do that.Ian Barbour, When Science Meets Religion (New York: HarperCollins, 2000): 173A body is a body due to the complex causal relationships among its parts. It seems to me that the universe-at-large lacks anything like such relationships. It's more like a gas than a body.Arthur Peacocke, Paths from Science towards God: The End of all our Exploring (Oxford: OneWorld, 2001): 108

Even if we were to proceed with the analogy, I'm not sure I'm happy with the implications. The control that I exhibit on most parts of my body is so imprecise as to be negligible, and at some scales is zero.Arthur Peacocke, Paths from Science towards God: The End of all our Exploring (Oxford: OneWorld, 2001): 110I can affect blood pressure, but cannot affect individual blood cells. Sharpe makes use of the 'blunt' nature of downward causation to account for the minimal ways in which we can see the Divine acting at the level of human experience; as in 'trickle-down economics' the lower levels may not see the effects originating at higher levels.Kevin Sharpe, Sleuthing the Divine: The Nexus of Science and Spirit (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000): 68(This prompts the question: at what levels should we expect to see the Divine acting maximally?) Barbour suggests that God would not need the analogue of a nervous systemIan Barbour, When Science Meets Religion (New York: HarperCollins, 2000): 174because of omnipresent connections to all that is. And Peacocke also clearly states, "Of course, this network of events is not identical with God and is not God's body, for it is not in any sense a 'part' of God as such."Arthur Peacocke, Paths from Science towards God: The End of all our Exploring (Oxford: OneWorld, 2001): 58But it seems to me that if we don't have some kind of causal network to observe, then we don't have downward causation. What we have instead is pure immanence. While many thinkers, including Newton, have wondered if the Mind-Body interaction was a useful analogy for the God-World interaction, it seems to me that the problems are increasing in number.

Email link | Printer-friendly | Feedback | Contributed by: Adrian Wyard

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