Dr Behe: Scenario of "God's Pool Shot"


(Edward Robinson) #103

As happens so often, George, you read too quickly, and react harshly before you have really chewed on and understood what is being said. I didn’t say anything about how the real God actually thinks and plans. I was trying to show how the sort of determinism one finds in the pool shot analogy might be translated into an alternate story of Jonah. Under the pool ball analogy, Jonah would have to become as passive and obedient as a pool ball is when struck by another pool ball. He would do exactly what God said, exactly when God asked him, but he would be like a programmed android in a science fiction story, presenting the similitude of being human while all the while functioning like a machine. And I was agreeing with you that God has not created human beings to be that way, but allows them the freedom to make difficulties, put up resistance, procrastinate, evade, waver, etc. But as happens so often, you don’t listen sympathetically enough to what I’m saying to realize when I’m trying to agree with you; you just let loose a blast when some phrase that you’ve read far too quickly irks you.

(George) #104


You wrote:
“I’m not certain, however, that the type of literature that the Bible
is will allow for the tightness of system that one would find in a
book by Spinoza or Aquinas or Calvin. There may always be some loose
ends that Christians just have to leave unresolved.”

I certainly have to agree with you about that.

You also wrote: “Of course, all of this that I’ve just said is about
God-human interactions, and not at all about evolutionary pool shots
that move the universe from the Big Bang to man. Behe’s image of the
pool shot calls to mind the old ideal of Laplacean mechanism, whereas
a chess game between two players who choose their own moves doesn’t do

And I certainly have to disagree about your last sentence. Maybe
Behe doesn’t intend for his Pool Shot to accommodate the Chess Master
element. But the Pool Shot dynamics that I incorporate into my
personal model handles it just fine. Humans have Free Will… and God
has an endless number of middle and end games to accomplish what he
wants to accomplish… oh, and it leads to Universal redemption. God
really knows how to run the joint!

(Edward Robinson) #105

Yes, you were, and I was agreeing with you, and supplying the Jonah story as an example where God cut Jonah some slack to procrastinate and evade his duty.

I agree, and that was the point of my remarks.

Which is exactly what I said – that you did not like that story, and would not have wanted God to handle Jonah’s resistance in that way, but to give Jonah some decision-making space.

I have no idea who “my people” are, and I don’t know when I’ve tried to “work around” the statement. In fact, in one of my academic publications I emphasized the statement, and drew attention to it. But if anything, it is systematic theologians (Augustine, Calvin, Aquinas, etc.) who have intensified that kind of determinism, drawing attention to it even more than it is drawn attention to in the Bible, so systematic theology is hardly the cure for such difficult statements. So your last comment seems to affirm the opposite of what is the case.

And that’s what I’d rather hear about from you – what Brooks thinks, not what Brooks thinks Behe thinks, or what Brooks thinks Collins thinks, etc. In almost every case where you have purported to relate the thought of someone else, that someone else’s thought mysteriously comes out as sounding a lot like George Brooks’s thought. (I still remember cases where Brad Kramer jumped in to stress that statements you made about BioLogos were your own and were not to be taken as the BioLogos position!) Rather than see you go to the effort of massive reinterpretation of others to match your ideas, I’d rather you just gave your ideas straight out. I probably would agree with them at least half the time.

(Edward Robinson) #106

Exactly – so there is no need for you to disagree with my statement. It was a statement about the purpose of Behe’s pool shot analogy in the context in which he made it, not a statement about your own view.

In the cartoon I provided for Paul Nelson’s amusement, the reference to the programmable calculator and the necessitarian sinking of all the balls in preordained pockets shows that the pool shot analogy is inherently Laplacean in its general tenor, whereas that is not the case with a chess game. They are two very different metaphors, each useful in certain contexts and wrong in others. A pool ball does not have free choice how to move; a chess player does. The two things are as different as night and day.

(George) #107


So now you are trying to con your audience into “what Jonah must do”… and youve turned him into an automaton ?

I can tell you right now… that is not in Behe’s model if he ever produces one that is post-human emergence… nor is it in mine.

You could say: "some low intellect individuals might imagine this is the only way to interpret the pool shot scenario in the presence of humanity… but there are other more reasonable interpretations!

(George) #108

Criticize what you like… but until i heard Behe’s talk for myself, there were plenty of ERRONEOUS interpretations of his belief floating around.

I heard it… then i explained to ID folks here who had completely missed Behe’s point.

You say you know his thoughts better than i do … we will wait and see.

(Edward Robinson) #109

Not among the ID community. They had all heard Behe, and Dembski, and other ID proponents, offer versions of the pool shot analogy before. You just aren’t familiar enough with the ID literature, because you don’t spend enough time reading it.

But of course those of us who have read virtually everything Behe has written have also heard him say that models where God directly influences the process along the way are possible. In short, he hasn’t changed his position at all: front-loaded and “interventionist” models both remain logical possibilities for him, and for him, ID doesn’t dictate one or the other.

I previously linked you and everyone else here to an article on Discovery where he talked about these things, long before the interview you saw was filmed. You don’t appear to have read the article. Sometimes I could almost swear that you deliberately don’t read things precisely because it is I who have recommended them. :slight_smile:

(Jon Garvey) #110

I don’t know why someone like Behe gets accused of self-contradiction in giving the nod to different ways in which he believes his claims to design might be effected.

The essence of the thing is the apprehension of final causation, which is entirely orthogonal to the efficient causes studied by science. So Behe might have his own preferences regarding efficient causation, yet be honestly open to others.

There is only conflict once one loses the clear focus on final causation.

An anecdotal example: some years ago I received a flyer about an origins conference in Cambridge. In one way it was a surprise, as I knew even fewer “movers and shakers” in England then that I do now. In another it wasn’t surprising, because I had a footprint at BioLogos and elsewhere, so it was probable that someone thought I, specifically should be there (final causation).

The possibilities included:
(a) That I was wrong about purpose, and that I had received a random mailshot. That seemed entirely implausible.
(b) That some organiser had seen The Hump of the Camel or BioLogos and decided to ask me to beef up numbers from the local UK pool.
© (my best guess) That an erstwile church friend, whom I knew in the past had an interest in the origins question, and also a penchant for networking, had some hand in this conference and thought of me. Somehow the anonymous approach seemed like his style.

When I e-mailed this friend and asked, © turned out to be the case. But if he’d disclaimed responsibility, it wouldn’t have altered my conviction that the invitation was purposeful, and I’d have been asking around the organisers when I got there until I found an explanation.

Bottom line - efficient causation is logically downstream from final causation, at least as far as intelligent agents are concerned. We first conceive intention, and then seek to explain its efficient causes. On the other hand, no sequence of efficient causes whatsoever adds up unequivocally to intention.

(Dan Eastwood) #111

Strangely enough, this also make more sense to me. IF God acted in this way, the implied “Cue Ball” have to contain an awful lot of information. In a sense, not only does it need a lot of spin, but it needs to be spinning on multiple axes simultaneously, which is an impossible object in our universe. So God can create the impossible object, no problem there, but it still needs to interact with the real universe. That might not be physically possible within this universe. (there are physical bounds on how much information can be contained in a physical space, I think. I would be hard pressed to explain why that is).

Splitting the information up into smaller packets and introducing them as needed is far simpler, even for God.

Humor! :slight_smile:


Just a second. Do you mean to say that God would have to guide evolution rather than simply kickstart it, knowing what would come out of it?

(George) #113


Its funny how criticisms get launched… then they circle around a bit before they bite the critic in the butt.

Thanks for pointing that out!

Signed, the guy who coined the phrase: “God-Guided”!


Actually @gbrooks9 my view is that God could have simply kickstarted evolution, and he also could have guided it. But I’m not married to either possibility.

(George) #115


And this is my view as well… for the pre-human phase of the Universe.

If God KICK-STARTS the Universe… up to the point of the rise of humanity…we are essentially stating that other than the initial creation… God doesnt need to do anything miraculous up to the time of humanity (setting aside the idea that SUSTAINING natural law might be out into the “miraculous” stack.

Its when humans emerge, exerting Free Will, that God would need to make an ongoing chain of tweaks amd adjustments to compensate and re-balance the course of the future.

The tweaks are not because of God’s failure… but because if you insert Free Will “balls” into the middle of a massive Pool Shot… you need to arrange a long string of little miracles to pick up each strand of a causal chain that has been terminated by an act of Free (i.e. naturally unlawful) Will!

(Dan Eastwood) #116

OK, bear with me a moment. — If I am God and I create a universe with laws of physics to keep everything running smoothly, then I may have just limited myself in the manner of interaction possible. I’m still omnipotent, but this universe has rules, and if I break the rules I could break the universe in the process. — I’m done being God now (I should have given myself a Pagani Zonda while I had the chance!)

George is correct about the information in the tip on the pool cue that kicks things off: There is a limit to just how much spin can be put on that ball. For God’s pool cue, there are physical limits on information that can exist within a limited space. By definition an omnipotent God could do this anyway, but it might be much simpler and possibly less destructive - even for God - to guide things progressively. That guidance might be at a very high level, above even those fiddly bits of evolution. However God acts, if at all, must be consistent with the universe continuing without major disruption.

I’m still not saying the same thing as George, especially when it comes to free will. If God exists, then IMO she must have better things to do than micromanage us.


Careful, while, even in Christianity, saying ‘she’ is neither more or less wrong than saying ‘he’, there are Christians who would ask for inquisition if you said it in front of them.:slightly_smiling_face:

(Neil Rickert) #118

I’m pretty sure @Dan_Eastwood is trying to stir them up :stuck_out_tongue:

(Dan Eastwood) #119

And no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Some people just need stirring. It keeps them from burning at the bottom of the pot.

(George) #120


I’m hoping to get you to take a look at the premises you are using
when you come to this conclusion: “OK, bear with me a moment. — If I
am God and I create a universe with laws of physics to keep everything
running smoothly, then I may have just limited myself in the manner of
interaction possible. I’m still omnipotent, but this universe has
rules, and if I break the rules I could break the universe in the

You also write: “George is correct about the information in the tip
on the pool cue that kicks things off: There is a limit to just how
much spin can be put on that ball. For God’s pool cue, there are
physical limits on information that can exist within a limited space.
By definition an omnipotent God could do this anyway, but it might be
much simpler and possibly less destructive - even for God - to guide
things progressively.”

I’m not sure the rules you appear to have assigned to this problem are
really mandatory rules. First of all, the pool stick being imagined
by Behe in his Pool Shot Model is not supposed to be seen as an actual
physical object, right? It’s a metaphor. Why does this make a
difference? Well… let’s imagine a video tape of the BIG BANG…
the one that Untoward Godless Cosmologists (everywhere) imagine. In
that scenario, the Big Bang starts really small. Smaller than a pool
ball, right? Okay… if you let the Big Bang run from that first
moment, nothing gets broken. At least, not so far.

Now, let’s imagine something COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Let’s imagine God
(He or She) configures every bit of energy and matter to be identical
with that singular chunk of Universe that we just spoke of, smaller
than the size of the pool ball. There is no cue stick… God is the
Cue Stick. And when God says GO… the Big Bang, Guided-By-God,
starts to run. If the premise is that both models use natural laws to
run the Cosmos… then there really is no dwelling on “how much
information is in the tip of the cue stick” - - BECAUSE IT IS GOD.

(Jon Garvey) #121

I don’t think that works. In fact I’m sure it doesn’t - because Dan is right in saying that if God limits himself to particular means, then those means, not God, are the limiting factor.

Suppose, for example, God says, “I’m going to work out this sum using ordinary maths, and not my infinite power to poof numbers into existence.” In that case, 2 + 2 = 4, and 4 only and always, just as it would for you or me. If he made it add to 5 (if that were logically possible) it would be by special providence, definitionally supernatural.

And so if God says, “I will organise the universe on a few simple mathematical laws,” then that universe will produce exactly, and only, what those simple rules can do. Maths can only produce the outcomes already inherent in the premises.

God playing billiards as a billiards player cannot put more information into the cue tip than you or me - just avoid our human errors. Of course, he could decree at the cue shot that the laws of ballistics will alter, or be bypassed, at any particular point in the scenario - but then that would be special providence, not lawlike general providence.

In theological terms, since all God’s actions are in eternity, it’s misleading to speak of God’s actions occurring at points in time at all, but only their effects occurring in time. This gives us another reason for doubting the “deistic pool shot” scenario - whilst it may look impressively clever to us, it has no advantages whatsoever for God, who may as well create at all times as at one, and arguably has to, since the sustaining of the world is a kind of creation itself.

My own reason for doubting it follows on from Dan’s reasoning. The kind of God we see in Christianity (as opposed to Deism) is the God who desires to be intimately involved with the world. The universe was created by, through and for Christ, including humans made in his image, and he sustains what it is (not just that it is) moment by moment. And the new creation is started by the Incarnation and passion of that same Christ, who is said to care enough to call and save individual people - not simply leave them a message on the Ansafone to call home.

The question, then, if the Deistic pool shot is implausible theoretically and unnecessary theologically, is where these actions of God are hiding. To which my answer is, “In the same places that conventional science places contingency it can’t explain by the regularity of the laws - in what is called randomness.”

All the talk about God “employing” chance, or “knowing in advance the result of chance events” and so on are more parsimoniously explained by saying that these chance events are, in fact, divine choices. Suddenly, God has poofed ontological randomnness out of existence simply by doing stuff. And good riddance, I say.

(George) #122


Your inscrutable writings are always exquisite! But what the heck are trying to say? I was following you until you threw your favorite “T.hread D.etonation D.evice” (TDD!):

Please go to my prior posting in the thread link (below):

and tell me your reaction to my analysis at the end of the posting - Paragrah [5] Option “i”
Paragraph [5] Option “ii”.