Archive for February 20th, 2011

February 20th, 2011

Miracles and Leibniz’s Principle of Least Action

by Max Andrews

The principle of least action states that God always chooses the most minimal means by which to produce the world.  For example, if God had the choice to intervene in the world three times or five times but he would still receive identical glory for either number of interventions then God would always choose the minimal means (three interventions).  I believe this principle bears truth, if anything it is quite attractive.  Now how does this compare with God’s interventions via miracles?  Let’s define a miracle as:  A divine intervention into, or an interruption of, the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful but unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.  Miracles are not violations of laws of causality.

Are miracles thus dependent on strong actualizations or will weak actualizations be sufficient (God weakly actualizes S iff there is an S* such that God strongly actualizes [direct causation] S* and S* → S, where → is “counterfactual implication” [Let S be a state of affairs])?  It seems that strong actualization is the most obvious or most appealing means by which God intervenes (miracles), but perhaps weakly actualized miracles is more in sync with the principle of least action.  Perhaps at the initial conditions of the universe God constructed the world in such a way that the miracle would happen naturally given the states of affairs at the time of the miracle (including physical states and counterfactuals of human freedom).  This could have been the case that a natural quantum perturbation/anomalous event occurs at the time of the resurrection, thus, it is weakly actualized. (Now this includes all historical/physical events in time preceding the resurrection but this perturbation is not strongly/directly caused.  In other words, God does not introduce a new cause into the already existing cause and effect system).  It would still be a miracle given the religio-historical context which surround the miracle, which God anticipated.  These weakly actualized miracles that occur naturally are not mere natural events given the background information.  If weakly actualized miracles are a priori defined out of existence by the definition given, then if weakly actualized miracles are plausible, perhaps we need a new working definition.  This begs the question, which, for God, is the least course of action:  weakly actualized miracles or strongly actualized miracles?