The significance of process

One normally associates due process with the courts. The terms refer to the underlying rules of our justice system designed to assure, to the extent we can, that justice is fairly administered.

A complex set of rules governing the right to trial, right to counsel, admissibility evidence, application of the law, and appeals provides an intelligible framework within which an orderly process can function, one that hopefully will lead to the truth, the obvious foundation upon which rests our efforts to structure justice.

It does not always work as we hope, but the process does reflect a desire to achieve a fair and honest resolution of the problems human beings encounter. It is not the only process that governs our activity; we are surrounded by it.

Things as chaotic as war and natural disasters are generated by process.

Business, government, religion, and family life have each generated their own processes, which are, ideally, the orderly application of our best values to what we do. The rules and the process are not as easily defined as in the courts, but they exist nonetheless.

Why is it that coherence, order, design, structure, planning, and predictability, so important in our own lives, seems to elude us when we step back and look at the universe and our place in it?

There are laws of mathematics, chemistry, physics, and biology, all of which acknowledge an underlying process indicative of intelligence. Yet some are reluctant to identify process in creation.

It seems we are only too ready to recognize process when we see intelligent design in human activity, but when it comes to order elsewhere in the universe, many are skeptical: Sure, humans are capable of intelligent design, but the forces of nature are accidental or coincidental. The things we cannot control just happen.

We see an orderly progression in evolution, a process by which organisms became human beings, but that was an accident without design or purpose.

When we manipulate, modify, and apply human stem cells to achieve a cure, that is intelligent design, but in their original form, they were accidents. Where is the logic in that?

When we use nuclear energy to generate power, that is intelligent design, but the atoms that are the source of that energy are an accident.

A bridge is the product of intelligent design, but not the laws of physics and mathematics so essential to its construction.

The examples surround us, yet we are unable to look beyond our own experience at the compelling evidence of a truth beyond our capacity to fully understand. Unwilling to acknowledge our limitations, we are reluctant to accept what we cannot see or comprehend.

We can create, invent, and build, yet we inhabit a universe that just became. Is it any wonder that we may offend God by seeing only our own accomplishments while ignoring His? Like bees going about their routine tasks, we fly by the bee-keeper every day without seeing him or understanding how central he is to our existence.

The existence of God is not beyond human comprehension, but the nature of God is; religions have given us the equivalent of flickering insights, shadows on walls, and drawings in caves. They illuminate the unknowable by providing signs, suggestions, a goal, and a way forward.
Here, we are guided by faith, which is the process of clinging to a belief, the truth of which is self-evident but the dimensions of which are boundless and unfathomable.

A combination of hope and trust, faith enables us to reach for the profound. It can at least illuminate the outline of a process beyond our comprehension.

James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law. E-mail: