Can “Intrinsic Randomness” Afford Divine Openness?

In his book A New Kind of Science, Stephen Wolfram describes what he calls “intrinsically-generated randomness” (pp. 315-326), and contrasts it with other sources of randomness, namely initial conditions and environmental effects. Could this idea, that randomness may be effectively generated via the simple computational rules governing the behavior of a system, offer anything new to the discussion on possible vectors for divine action? As far as I can tell, this potential source for (apparently) random behavior is not covered in the discussion series, “Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action” (SPDA) published by the Vatican Observatory and the Center for Theology and Natural Science (CTNS).

Earlier this year, I e-mailed Prof. Robert Russell, General Editor for the SPDA series, seeking his thoughts. He had not read Wolfram, but he restated a basic finding from the SPDA series, that “deterministic chaos is not a basis for a non-interventionist form of divine action because it’s deterministic, even though it produces chaos.”

That would certainly seem to apply to Wolfram’s “intrinsic randomness”, but I’m wondering whether there’s perhaps something hidden or overlooked here, something that might speak to either the openness of creation to divine action, or to the nature of divine action itself. Thoughts?

– Jason H

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