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Keywords:

  • determinism;
  • divine action;
  • emergence theory;
  • evolution;
  • mental causes;
  • miracles;
  • natural law;
  • presumption of naturalism;
  • quantum physics;
  • theory of causation;
  • top-down causes

Abstract. Talk of divine action faces its greatest obstacle when it confronts natural law and efficient causation. If all valid explanations involve deterministic laws, and only microphysical causes actively trigger change, claims for divine action can serve no explanatory role. But science does not in fact require the limitation to downwardly deterministic laws and efficient causes. Evidence supports the existence of emergent systems of phenomena, which, though dependent on physical law, also display emergent causal powers not reducible to their subvenient systems. Careful study of top-down causation in biology and of mental causation in psychology offers analogies that are helpful for making sense of the notion of divine action. Theists' ascription of a causal role to God cannot be proven from science or identified with scientific forms of causality. Nevertheless, if the emergence hypothesis is correct, theistic explanations do not need to conflict with science, and a plausible model of divine influence may even be derived from emergent causation. In this article I offer an expanded theory of causation that reduces the distance between two types of causal forces that are often held to be incommensurable.