Randomness With a Purpose
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Randomness With a Purpose

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Discussion blog on this meeting

A joint meeting of the ASA Boston Chapter and the Harvard Graduate Christian Fellowship.

Presentation by Craig Story

Wednesday March 6, 2019 7:00pm

1st Floor Parlor Room, Phillips Brooks House, Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA

What are the philosophical and theological ramifications of random processes in human biology?

Mathematical randomness is a crucial feature of many natural systems, including human biology. It can be strongly argued that chance events in biology allow humans to survive both at an individual level and a species level. Must we therefore believe that humans are merely the result of a natural game of chance?

Our immunity to disease—the creation of antibodies and T-cell receptors—depends heavily on our ability to generate massive antigen-binding diversity, accomplished in the joining of gene segments. This system, known as the Generator of Diversity (GOD), is a good example of determinate randomness—it is a random process with purpose.

While the theological aspects of this discussion are best left to theologians, I hope to demonstrate one example of how random processes are important for living systems in this presentation, and suggest that such natural processes are fully within the domain of “God doing something.”

Dr. Craig Story is Professor of Biology at Gordon College in Wenham, MA. In addition to teaching cell biology and biochemistry courses at Gordon, he taught a faith-science course to pastors during three summers as part of a BioLogos-funded project, and he is involved in AAAS-Dialogue on Science Ethics and Religion as a science consultant. He is a fellow of the American Scientific Affiliation.