The Randomness Project

“…the structure of the program is designed to foster collaboration and build community between scholars, with the end of expanding the range and integration of their work:”

My comment: The project and program failed to include any accurate representations of what is known about how RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions link ecological variation to ecological adaptation in species from microbes to humans. The project administrator asked for:

Excerpt:

“…a narrative not to exceed 500 words in length explaining the significance of the questions(s) and providing enough context that a reader can assess their relevance to the broader issue of randomness and divine providence.”

My 2012 letter of intent narrative:

Nutrient chemicals are required to sustain life and for transgenerational epigenetic inheritance of biological populations. This fact is exemplified in the honeybee model organism and other model organisms. The nutrient chemicals cause receptor-mediated events. The receptor-mediated events allow nutrient chemicals to enter though the cell wall. Electrostatic changes then alter intracellular signaling as nutrient chemicals are metabolized to species-specific chemicals called pheromones.

The metabolism of nutrient chemicals to pheromones exemplifies the apparent design of biology. Bottom-up (genetically predisposed organization) and top-down reciprocity via sensory activation is what allows nutrient chemicals and pheromones to control survival of the species. The nutrient chemicals support individual fitness and the pheromones control reproduction. From the bottom up, their ability to control species survival is enabled by their epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals that cause stochastic gene expression. Similarly, from the top down, pheromones epigenetically effect stochastic gene expression (in cells of organisms from microbes to man).

All extant organisms show a clear pattern of genetic predispositions that enable nutrient chemical-dependent and pheromone-dependent adaptive evolution via ecological, social, neurogenic, and socio-cognitive niche construction. Adaptive evolution is facilitated via the expression of new genes, including those that are important to the development of language abilities and human brain development.

The ability of cells containing genes to produce de novo genes does not seem to have developed via random mutations. Although gene expression is stochastic, organisms that choose the wrong nutrient chemicals are less reproductively fit and doomed to suffer and die. One organisms choice also may determine downstream down-stream epigenetic effects on other organisms that selfishly compete for life-sustaining nutrient chemicals in same ecological niche. Only when some level of cooperation is achieved can individuals or species survive in the same ecological niche, and species-specific pheromones ensure that two species do not share the same social niche.

Ecological and social niche construction collectively enabled evolved nutrient-dependent and pheromone-dependent neurogenic niche construction, which is exemplified in vertebrates by conservation of the GnRH molecule, and diversification of its receptor across 400 million years of adaptive evolution that first required nutrient-dependent and pheromone-dependent sexual reproduction in unicellular and multicellular organisms, with molecular origins as the alpha-mating pheromone in brewer’s/baker’s yeast.

The ecological and social niches constructed by one species that eats another exemplify how that advent of multicellularity and cooperation in different species enabled the cascade of diversity that is readily evidenced across Creation, as it always has been.  When viewed from a model of complexity, Creation of the diversity of life does not appear to involve random events, but instead involves the common molecular biology of receptor-mediated events is species from microbes to man.

The concept that is extended is the epigenetic tweaking of immense gene networks in ‘superorganisms’ that ‘solve problems through the exchange and the selective cancellation and modification of signals. It is now clearer how an environmental drive probably evolved from that of food ingestion in unicellular organisms to that of socialization in insects. It is also clear that, in mammals, food odors and pheromones cause changes in hormones that have developmental affects on sexual behavior in nutrient-dependent, reproductively fit individuals across species of vertebrates.

Thus, simply put: “Olfaction and odor receptors provide a clear evolutionary trail that can be followed from unicellular organisms to insects to humans.” And there is nothing random about that!

 

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This is the original document, which is no longer available.

Request for Proposals (RFP)

Randomness and Divine Providence

Supported by the John Templeton Foundation

Submission deadline: October 1, 2012

Many scientists have come to see randomness as pervasive in the physical world, notably in quantum mechanics, chaos theory, complexity studies, and evolutionary biology. However, randomness has been problematic both for those secular scientists who see the physical universe as governed by deterministic natural laws and for those theists who see it as governed by an omniscient, sovereign deity. Nevertheless, in recent years, a growing number of scientists and theologians have suggested that randomness is an instrument of divine purpose and may enrich our understanding of the creator. This initiative seeks proposals from scientists, philosophers, theologians, and interdisciplinary teams of scholars who are interested in exploring the relationship between randomness and divine providence. Some possible questions they might pursue are:

  • How might God work providentially through indeterminate processes? Can recent advances in understanding the nature of randomness offered by algorithmic information theory, physics, biology, and other sciences provide insight into this question?
  • What are some possible implications of randomness for hiding or unfolding divine creativity and purpose in the world? Could God use randomness to (1) generate creativity, (2) hide divine actions, or (3) unfold information? Why might God do so?
  • How might we identify and come to understand a significant collection of nondeterministic processes in which agents could intentionally employ randomness to bring about purposeful results?
  • How might we mathematically and physically model random processes in ways that help us understand how divine providence could be exercised in a “chance-governed” world?
  • How do “laws and orders” in nature interplay with “chance and randomness” in bringing about results that can be interpreted as aspects of divine providence?
  • Might randomness be evidence of limitations in human knowledge but nothing more? Or might it be evidence of ontological indeterminism? Might this be tested?
  • What implications does randomness have for aspects of God’s relationship with the physical world such as God’s relationship to time and God’s role in causation? How might randomness be reconciled with God’s foreknowledge?
  • How might an understanding of providence based on an extended Molinism and/or open theology incorporate randomness? For example, could an extended Molinism provide a plausible account of the relationship between quantum mechanics and divine providence?
  • What are some theodical implications of randomness, particularly for the issue of natural evil?
  • How have the theological traditions of Augustine, Maimonides, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin addressed chance and fortune? In what ways might they incorporate ontological randomness?
  • How do or could religions other than the Judeo/Christian tradition understand and incorporate randomness?
  • How is the concept of randomness understood by advocates of secularism, naturalism, and new atheism? What are the strengths and weaknesses of these usages?
  • How might an understanding of randomness in the world alter our conceptions of divinity, especially our understanding of divine providence?

Proposals are sought from scholars who will commit a significant portion of their time for one to two years to investigate one or more of the above questions or other comparable questions. Eight to ten grants in amounts up to $200,000 will be awarded to individuals or interdisciplinary teams; two of the awards will be reserved for scholars who have either not yet received their doctorate or are no more than five years past completion. Awarded funds may be used in any way that would facilitate the investigation; for example, the funds could be used to buy out time during an academic year, to provide summer support, and to purchase books and materials; up to 10% of the award may be used for travel expenses; up to 15% is allowed for institutional overhead. Grant recipients are expected to produce one or more original manuscripts publishable in a suitable journal and to participate in an opening workshop in June of 2013 and a closing conference in June of 2015. Furthermore, grant recipients who successfully publish a popular article on their results will be eligible to receive a popular dissemination bonus award of $3,000.

Proposals will be evaluated on the basis of (1) how well the specific proposal comports with the spirit of the list of bulleted items above and (2) the likelihood of a significant scholarly contribution to the study of randomness and providence. The latter will be assessed primarily on the basis of either previous scholarship or (in the case of young scholars) recommendations by established scholars.

Letters of intent should be submitted in .pdf, .doc, or .docx format by October 1, 2012 to Sharon Gould, Mathematics Department, Calvin College, seg5@calvin.edu. A letter of intent is a short description of the project an applicant has in mind. It should consist of:

  • a clear, brief, statement of the question(s) the applicant(s) wish(es) to address,
  • a narrative not to exceed 500 words in length explaining the significance of the questions(s) and providing enough context that a reader can assess their relevance to the broader issue of randomness and divine providence,
  • a description of the methodology that will be used to address the question(s),
  • CVs for each applicant,
  • an estimated budget and brief explanation of each anticipated expenditure,
  • a bibliography of each applicant’s previous scholarly work relevant to the topic; each item should be accompanied by an abstract.

Based on the letters of intent, some applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal which will explain the project in greater detail. Full proposal invitations will be issued on or about October 31, 2012.

Further information including a project timeline, expanded project description, and a randomness lexicon that applicants are asked to use can be found on the project website, www.calvin.edu/go/randomnessproject. Questions may be directed to James Bradley, PhD, Project Coordinator, Department of Mathematics, Calvin College, braj@calvin.edu.

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