A Conversation about God, Evidence, and Teleology

There are a few parts to an answer here:

  1. Your claim seems to be that there is a qualitative, not just a quantitative, difference between orbital mechanics and cell division. I’m not sure that’s in evidence. The orbits are simpler, since they are pure and relatively simple physics, while cell division is a much more complex physical and chemical biological process, but the underlying scientific laws and processes are of the same kind. You would need to establish what is different about cell division, or what cannot be fully explained in terms of naturalistic science.

  2. I came to ‘motivation’ because that is one possible answer or approach to a ‘why’ question. Why did the chicken cross the road? The other possible kind of answer is in terms of causality, but I would argue that the answer in terms of causality is exactly what I offered: the cells divide because the naturalistic chain of cause-and-effect processes in physics, chemistry and biology occur in such a way that the effect is a cell division.

If your ‘why’ question is not about either motivation or causality, you will need to clarify what it is about. Is it about teleology? Are you asserting that cell division has a purpose?

I’ve done the best I can to answer the question as you posed it - and you could go easy on the attribution of bad faith when I’m doing my best - but I’ll need more clarity from you if I’m to attempt a more satisfactory response.

1 Like

As I have already stated, and now as you have stated in so many words, you have reached the limits of your science, not a science “gap”. You do not have a naturalistic answer, yet you fault me for appealing to the supernatural. Your bias is “showing” as is mine. Just proof that we are at the limits of science.

You didn’t clarify the question as requested, but context cues tell me you are asking about teleology.

As I stated, in terms of causality, there is a complete naturalistic explanation. And I agree that motivation is irrelevant at this scale (i.e. for a non-conscious process).

But teleology in this argument makes it circular. You are asking “What is the divine purpose of cell division? Can’t answer naturalistically? Checkmate, atheists, God did it!” But you smuggled in the conclusion in the premises, by assuming there is a divine purpose.

If I’ve misunderstood, please clarify.

1 Like

For what it’s worth, I agree that science has limits. To think otherwise is scientism.

Cell division is just a bad example. Here’s a better one: science can’t tell us whether Hamlet or Macbeth is the more effective and successful Shakespearean play. The standards of judgement appropriate to dramaturgy are not those of science, and that’s OK.

Science cannot do everything, and it knows it can’t. But it can very effectively explain a very large range of things… cell division among them.

1 Like

Great, thanks for clarifying your position of ignorance, not meant disparagingly. In natural terms, I too am ignorant. So you want to keep it natural? Ok, we can. We are both ignorant when it comes to cell division.

Rereading I see I misunderstood you:

No, I can’t go with this at all. Cell division is a perfect example of “God of the limits”. In fact, I am going to say that most of what skeptics term “God of the gaps”, has nothing whatever to do with gaps in our scientific knowledge. Rather, what they are describing are the extremities (limits) of our knowledge beyond which only the reality of God could explain.

In fact, l’ll bet there are no true “God of the gaps”, but only “God of the limits”.

you can try this one:


Knowledge of why and how cells divide is well within the limits of science.

Belief in the supernatural doesn’t explain anything.

1 Like

Ok, let’s hear from you now. Why do cells divide?

Physics and chemistry. There are entire textbooks devoted to the explanation and I don’t understand why you expect a full description on an online forum. Does Google work where you are?

You persist with this question, but just as persistently refuse to offer your own view as to whether cell division has natural or supernatural basis. What is it?

Great dodge. Thank you for posting your ignorance on the subject matter, no disparagement intended. By the way, you will not find an answer in your life time, nor will your descendants…why? It is supernatural

1 Like

I’m not ignorant on the subject matter. You appear to be projecting.

More projection.

From Britannica
The proteins that play a role in stimulating cell division can be classified into four groups—, growth factor, signal transducers, and nuclear regulatory proteins.

Google “Cell Cycle”, there is endless content available, covering both the how and why of cell division.


Right, and here is one of my favorite parts:

“On the basis of the stimulatory and inhibitory messages a cell receives, it “decides” whether it should enter the cell cycle and divide.”

The cell must be deciding on hundreds/thousands of activities every day. Marvelous what God has created, isn’t it?

We can even understand how those decisions are made at the molecular level. The processes can include transcription factor binding, CpG methylation in promoter sequences, miRNA binding to mRNA 3’ UTR’s, and a whole host of well understood chemical and physical processes.

1 Like

@r_spier’s point is, as I noted above, circular. He defines it as supernatural and then pronounces it supernatural. No other description will satisfy. The conditions of the question are set up so that none can.


@T_aquaticus Is it that we know about all the inputs, we just don’t know yet how the cell processes all those inputs to arrive at an outcome which starts the cell cycle?

I’m having difficulty understanding what @r_speir is arguing. Obviously, I don’t think he’s arguing that cells have consciousness. Just because we don’t know the mechanism doesn’t mean we may not understand its natural cause someday either.

A good analogy is weather. We have a firm understanding of the mechanisms and overall patterns of climate, but minute details of weekly weather are a bit harder to predict. However, not knowing what the weather will be a month from now does not mean we are ignorant of how weather works.


So @r_speir would be better off arguing that this is obvious evidence for intelligent design or God’s providence? That’s what I was assuming.

If he could supply evidence for that argument, it would be better. Trying to convince people that cell division is magic probably won’t get very far.