The Equivocation Of Chance

Taxonomy, as we have seen, was the first scientific discipline ever conducted in human history. When God brought the animals to Adam so that he could name them, the first man had to make distinctions between the animals (Gen. 2:19–20). He dis-tinguished one species from another in order to give it an identifica-tion. Since that time, human beings have continued to engage in tax-onomy because in one sense, all science is ultimately concerned with making distinctions. We have grown in our ability to make finer and finer distinctions as we study the world, and science proceeds as we distinguish this cause from that cause, this process from that process.

However, to make these distinctions, we must employ the tool of logic. The laws of logic, particularly the law of noncontradiction, allow us to separate things and not confuse things with one another. We do not always employ these laws of logic consciously, but to speak intel-ligibly and to make progress in our learning and communication, we employ logic to make connections, deductions, inferences, and so on.

When it comes to the issue of chance and the origin of the universe, a logical fallacy is often committed—the fallacy of equivocation. In equivocation, the meaning of a term undergoes subtle changes in the context wherein it is being used. Consider how the fallacy of equivo-cation might lead us to conclude that cats have four tails. First we state that “no cat has three tails.” Then we take two boxes and put a cat in one, leaving the other one empty. The other box, thus, has no cat. We could then ask, “How many more tails are in the box with a cat than the box with no cat?” The answer: “One more tail.” Well, if no cat has three tails and the box with a cat has one more tail in it than the box with no cat, then cats have four tails. It is simple addition—add the one tail of a cat to the three tails of no cat, and you get a four-tailed cat.

The problem in the example, of course, is that the term no cat changes its meaning in the dialogue. In the first use—“no cat has three tails”—no cat refers to a nonexistent creature. But then when the boxes are introduced, the speaker uses no cat as if it is a real creature, allowing the final addition to happen. Because of that subtle change, you get the ridiculous conclusion of a cat with four tails.

To speak of chance as causing the universe is to make an equivo-cation—it is to attribute causal power to a mathematical tool of pre-diction that does not possess it. All people are really doing is using the word chance as a stand-in for “a cause unknown to us.

Coram Deo

The word chance is often used as a stand-in for God in science, as if we are saying, “We do not know what caused this, but whatever it is, it cannot be God.” Thus, using chance to explain away God is both ignorant and arrogant. The depths of God’s workings cannot be discovered in full detail, so many would rather assume He does not exist. But it is more humble to say God is the first, ultimate cause even if we do not fully know how He works all things out.

Passages for Further Study

1 Chronicles 28:9a
Job 42:1–6
Proverbs 30:18–19
1 John 3:20

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