Chance and divinity

We oscillate between seeing chance as divine and as refuting God’s existence. We can’t help discovering meaning in events that, so far as nature or our own intentions were concerned, happened completely by chance: the meeting of a spouse, the finding a mentor, the personality of our children, etc, and any such discovery would, by definition, have to come from outside of nature or our own intention. At the same time, bad luck and the causality of chance are the paradigm refutations of any providence or design in things: which is what people seem to be gesturing at with all their ways of replacing divinity with “Darwin”.

At times, however, these inferences reverse: in the throes of bad luck we can insist that it must have a meaning, and so that it too falls under providence; and while living high on a string of good luck we might think that luck is all there is to it and that “the search for a deeper meaning” is asking too much of the world.

Say that we said both inferences cancel each other out, or that neither was definitive of themselves. It seems to me that this does a good deal more damage to the refutation-of-God side than for the chance as divine side. Bad luck is more or less the heart of the argument from evil, and chance-as-a-cause is the heart of the “Darwin” based scientific critique of theism. The inference from chance to divinity, however, is a much less significant argument in theism, and is in fact more suggestive an intuitive than explicitly asserted. So theism loses very little, but atheism quite a lot.

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