Saturday, November 18, 2006

Coincidences, again

I find the notion of coincidences interesting. If God is truly sovereign and all actions are under His control. then any apparent coincidence is just part of God's all-encompassing plan, right? But what about things like the story Asimov tells relating the discovery of Mercury to the ancient Greek myths of Kronos and Zeus? Surely this qualifies as a coincidence.

But my interest here is of a slightly different sort. I have come to suspect that much of what we call coincidence is nothing more than our perceptions filtered by our expectations. For example, in politics, we will tend to value only the evidence that supports our theory, while discounting as insignificant or of lesser quality those facts that do not support us. Voila! All the evidence is on our side.

This is not supposed to carry over into science, but it does. The truth is that there is very good data that supports a very old universe, and some good evidence that supports a young universe. There are reasons to believe in evolution, and reasons not to. The quantum theory of nature has proven to be extremely effective in predicting the way certain phenomena occur, but still has some maddening implications that are so counter-intuitive as to leave one scratching one's head (assuming your brain hasn't exploded from trying to think about it). There are reasons to believe in global warming, and there are reasons to think it is all bad extrapolation from insufficient measurements.

So where does that leave us? I think we have to listen to those who disagree with us. Even as believers, we need to hear from those who do not believe; not because they can inform our understanding of God's revelation, but because they can help us to understand how someone else might perceive His revelation, and we can more effectively communicate.

Strange, this has nothing to do with coincidences. That will have to be for another post.

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