Home » Intelligent Design » My review of Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn’s attempt to tiptoe around the intelligent design controversy

My review of Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn’s attempt to tiptoe around the intelligent design controversy

His attempt to tiptoe is better known as his book, Chance or Purpose? Creation, Evolution, and a Rational Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2007).

Tiptoeing won’t work, actually. The ID guys don’t really care what he says because Darwinism and materialism are toast so burnt that even a miracle couldn’t revive them, not that any miracle worker would bother, of course. But the Darwinists/materialists are accustomed to demanding total surrender from everyone for no particular reason, and I guess it becomes a habit or something. Anyway:

Introduction Christoph Cardinal Schoenborn’s Chance or Purpose? Flickering light on the ID controversy at best

Part One: Is the proposed distinction between evolution and “evolutionism” legitimate in today’s environment? (Of course not.)

Part Two: Why is it called “intelligent design” instead of “intelligent intervention”? (Because design is essential and intervention is optional.)

Part Three: What Cardinal Schoenborn doesn’t like about intelligent design (The ID guys talk as though cells operate like machines or something. News flash!: They do. )

Part Four: Can the disgraced Teilhard de Chardin evolve into a pioneer of faith? (But people just wouldn’t get Christ the “evolutor” at my parish, no matter who said it.)

Part Five: Darwin’s ladder knocking over Jacob’s ladder? (Well, that’s the idea anyway, and it won’t be the Darwinists’ fault if it never happens.)

Excerpt:

In marked contrast to the straightforward style of his “no-dhimmis-for-Darwin!” op-ed, Schoenborn’s book is very careful not to say much – without taking it back later. One gets the distinct impression that at least two different people wrote the book – one saying “look, this materialist nonsense is just not compatible with the Catholic faith” and the other saying “no, but, we need to placate the high profile Catholic Darwinists – can we just massage this a bit …”

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68 Responses to My review of Christoph, Cardinal Schoenborn’s attempt to tiptoe around the intelligent design controversy

  1. An interesting article. Some comments I would have.

    * I think when the cardinal tries to discern between ‘evolution’ and ‘evolutionism’, he’s doing something subtle and difficult to communicate (as I can personally attest). Namely, he’s arguing that the mechanisms described by evolution may be true (neutral drift, selection, mutation, etc), but that these things are not ‘unguided and without purpose’. The fact that humans can use design is evidence of this. So too is the fact that the only difference between artificial selection and natural selection is human interaction in the environment. So the cardinal sees no need to reject all the mechanisms of evolution (and while he questions mutations’ ability to produce new things, it seems Behe doesn’t do this either), he’s definitely pitted against the philosophy that so often is attached to the concept.

    * Just because the cardinal may believe that design can’t be demonstrated in the laboratory doesn’t necessarily mean (in fact, I think it’s obvious he doesn’t mean) it’s not a powerful philosophical position to take.

    * Teilhard’s work is controversial, but I think his primarily goal wasn’t to replace any concept of God, but to point out that evolution is itself one more way God intervenes in the world. Again, this doesn’t seem too far from Behe and others’ take – just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it’s not God’s work.

    However, with that said, I’d agree that the cardinal is taking an excessively careful approach here. I think he (reasonably) doesn’t want the Catholic Church tarred and feathered with being an enemy of science again. The Galileo thing is still a huge issue to this day. (Notice, by the way, that the treatment of Galileo and Bruno is forever brought up, ignoring the contributions of men like Gregor Mendel. But Lysenkoism is never touched upon.)

    I’d probably part ways with Denyse on this one (whose blogs I love to read – very informative and I agree with much), though I’d have criticisms of the cardinal as well. One area all sides should be able to agree on (whether ID-proposing, creationist, or theistic evolutionist) is that the philosophical fight against atheistic views of evolution (especially ones that get smuggled in with the science itself) and mind should be aggressively countered in all venues.

  2. So, what have we got? Someone in the upper echelons of the Catholic church acting just as they would if their responsibilities were to a secular political organization (in this case, by bending over backwards to please everyone).
    And this surprises you…????

    At least we can all agree that it doesn’t work.

  3. Nullasalus, I undestand clearly the distinction the Cardinal is making between evolution and “evolutionism” – and respectfully argue that it is irrelevant.

    In our culture today, evolution does not mean merely that once placoderms swam the seas but now whales do. Or that certain clever persons have suggested a family tree by which these two groups can be related – a tree that depends on evidence, not on the assertion of a dogma.

    No, evolution today means that apes should have human rights but humans shouldn’t. It means that any twaddle advanced in the name of “evolutionary psychology” commands attention. And it means a whole lot more, too, as any observant person among us will soon notice.

    Calling this trend “evolutionism” does not change anything; most laypeople will go away saying “so the Church actually supports all this … ”

    In my view, the Cardinal should have vigorously denounced what he tiptoes around. Believe me, he runs no intellectual risks in so dealing with, for example, the Big Bazooms theory of evolution.

  4. Duncan, I wish with all my heart that I could agree that “it doesn’t work.”

    Unfortunately, it works quite well if the purpose is to reassure those who have accommodated materialism that they can conscientiously go on doing so – and also to apprise those who have not accommodated materialism that they will get no unequivocal word from the Church at this time.

    Suppose the Church treated the vigorous evolutionist attempts to explain away altruism in the same way that it has dealt with arguments for abortion? THEN people would know, “Hey, dude, the Church doesn’t support it.”

    But I very much doubt that this is the last word in the matter.

  5. The Catholic church treads slowly on lots of matters. That is a good thing. One of the problems Galileo ran into was that the Cardinals asked him to wait to publish his work. He blew them off…

    They did in fact adopt his ideas. But, they take their time in making decisions. That is a good thing. The evangelical church is like the wild, wild west: adopting new fads every couple of years (case in point, YEC). Many evangelicals are jumping at ID, not because of the science, but because they need something to cling on to, and they want it right away.

    So, the Cardinal’s views are a nice first attempt to try and get one’s head around things. These are big issues, and I think it would be irresponsible for the Church to make knee-jerk reactions like we see the Evangelical community make. Part of the reason for this is not evangelicals’ fault. Evangelicalism is more of a loose federation, allowing groups to go in their own directions. More liturgical organizations (Catholic Church, PCA, Greek Orthodox, etc.) has a governing heirarchy, and do not have the luxory of making proclaimations everytime a hot issue comes about.

    BTW, it is this same slowness in the Catholic Church that has caused them to very faithfully tow the line on issues like abortion, homosexuality, etc. When the Catholic church makes a proclaimation about something, you can be pretty sure they’ve thought it through very carefully.

  6. TomRiddle: If you are going to put down Evangelicalism, at least get your facts right. For all my differences with YEC, theirs is not a fad. From the Church Fathers to Thomas Aquinas through the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, 24-hour 6-day creationism was the norm — even Thomas Aquinas would have found acceptance with the Creation Research Society.

  7. Dr. Dembski,

    you are right. Bad choice of words (fad). Sorry for that, and thanks for the correction. What I was implying was that evangelicalism (and perhaps I should have said “American Evangelicalism”) does in fact make very fast responses to current trends. Whether it is politics, or societal issues. The Catholic Church however is slower to change the direction of the ship. I think their slowness is good.

    Ms. O’Leary is a commentator on trends. So, I think she has the luxoury of saying things in a knee-jerk sort of way (that is not bad, that is what social commentators do). But, an organization like the Catholic Church doesn’t like to jump on bandwagons and then retract later – they like to vett things out over a longer period of time.

    thanks for the correction to my wording.

  8. “… you can be pretty sure they’ve thought it through very carefully.” After 150 years of Darwin as the apostle of militant materialism—of eugenics and Fascism and Communism and present trends—what’s to be careful about? It would have been good had Pope John Paul II, whom we all admired for having confronted Communism, would have been crystal clear on Darwin.

    Traditionalists outside Catholocism (Protestant, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim) would welcome the heavy weight of the Pope on this most important matter—just as they did on abortion and the culture of death. No, O’Leary is right on correct. If the problem is that materialism has made too many inroads to Rome then the folks need to speak up so that all roads don’t lead there.

  9. So why do you think the Catholic Church is treading this equivocal political path? It can’t be because they want to please everyone – they’ve never been shy of not doing that. Hence their stand on abortion, homosexuality, extra-marital sex, and the lie that the HIV virus can pass through condoms.

    Why aren’t they saying “Hey, dude, the Church doesn’t support it”?

  10. duncan,

    simply because “they simply don’t know”. They have made a stand on “purposeless” WRT evolution. But, nobody really knows how it works, and there is good evidence for common descent, so they are treading lightly. When you don’t know something for sure, its best to say “we don’t know”.

    Rude: you did just as I said. You linked Darwin to eugenics, fascism, and communism. That was knee-jerk. The Catholic Church cannot go off half-cocked and make those links. Its not that cut-and-dry. It seems you are looking for a Pope who wants to run his own blog and make pronouncements whenever he has an opinion. Prudence says “wait”. I think it is a smart move.

    However, that being said, waiting also has its drawbacks, as you can wind up being the last to the party. That is just the price you pay for the kind of structure the Catholic church holds to.

    I’m curious (and I really don’t know the answer to this, so I’m not fishing): did the Catholic church have white and black water fountains and bathrooms in the 1950s? I’m not sure, but I’d be willing to bet that they did not. Whereas, other organizations have had to backtrack on impulsive moves. And by other organizations, I don’t just mean churches, but even our own government and businesses.

  11. Denyse,

    Sorry if I’m belaboring this, but I really want to understand what you’re saying. Do you mean that the word/concept ‘evolution’ itself has so much baggage attached to it – including philosophical notions, endorsements of questionable (to say the least) ‘science’ like evolutionary psychology, etc – that trying to distinguish between evolution (as in processes of mutation, neutral drift, selection, etc) and ‘evolutionism’ (Apes are our brothers! Selfish genes are all that matter! Materialism!) is a hopeless cause?

    I really do think the cardinal is being too delicate with the topic – but I also think he doesn’t want to involve the Church in a science dispute. Philosophy (and naturally, theology) is fair game, however. Still, I’d admit the subject is complicated to say the least.

  12. nullasalus, what evolution means today for all practical purposes for most lay people is evolutionary psychobabble bolstered by claims about the history of life that are largely exploded by new science findings – but assent to which is demanded as the price of advancement.

    The rules of our society are increasingly constructed by an elite for whom the evopsychobabble is a gospel – the Gospel According to St. Fluke.

    My disappointment with the Cardinal’s Chance or Purpose? book stems from its unwillingness to confront our actual contemporary problem: At the very moment when the inner life of the cell has made confetti of all materialist theories of life, evopsychobabble rules the academy and so the purveyors of nonsense drive out true scholars – as atheist religion prof Hector Avalos drove out gifted Christian astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez.

    That, by the way, was an iconic moment. Science mattered little; what mattered was preserving the superstition of the tax-supported elite.

    If His Eminence has no message for these times, then very well, he has no message.

    It’s just too bad that he wrote a book implying that he did have a message – when it appears that he only wanted to signal Catholic Darwinists that they can glorify Darwin in peace at conferences sponsored by the Vatican, assured that they have nothing to fear from the Church demanding that the evidence for their views be set forth in detail, with contrary evidence allowed.

    While I am here, what business had Tom Riddle to describe my reaction as “knee-jerk”?

    I spent four months thinking about how to explain what I know I must finally say gently enough that I could not be justifiably accused of far more disrespect than either is fitting or than I intend.

    Finally, either the Church addresses the danger that any lay person faces who confronts the bankruptcy of materialist theories of origins or she stands justifiably accused of siding with the materialist elite. She can take as long as she wishes to make a decision but she cannot prevent reasonable people from drawing conclusions in the meantime about what to expect from her in the present day.

  13. Denyse

    OK, we know (and knew) your views on evolution / materialism.

    But I am interested to hear your views on why the Catholic Church (or this book, at least) is failing to take the stance you would like it (her?) to.

    Off the topic of this post, I’d also be interested to hear why you’re a Catholic (none of my business, of course – ignore me at your leisure). In my opinion the altar of St Guess is even less persuasive than the altar of St Fluke.

  14. Denyse:

    The Church has addressed the question of materialism ad infinitum ad nauseum. The problem is that it refuses to use the language of Enlightenment science. It refuses to acquiesce to the categories in which “science” is the only way of knowing. The problem with the ID approach, as I think the Cardinal sees it, is that it is nominalist and empiricist in its assumptions. It is, in a word, epistemologically and metaphysically Protestant.

    It is no coincidence that the only Catholics who are pro-ID are the most philosophically illiterate, and the Protestant philosophers who are the most pro-ID are the least Thomistic in their philosophy of nature.

    Although I continue to maintain that ID advocates raise important questions about the nature of science and whether science should presuppose naturalism (namely, the view that all that exists is the material universe and that there is no mind, such as God, behind it), I have doubts about ID’s answers and whether these answers can offer an attractive alternative to the inadequacies of the Enlightenment for the rationality of religious belief.

    I think you have to restrain yourself a bit from the crusade motif on these matters. There are many of us who are in the middle on these questions and think they are worth discussing. But when people like you act as if some of us are committing some kind of heresy because we will not acquiesce hook-line and sinker to every jot and tittle of the DI-narrative, we begin to wonder whether you are truly serious about academic freedom and the call for mutual respect and dialog.

  15. Frank,

    At the end of the day, the Cardinal did not make any strong or important response to the Darwinian materialism he admits to be a problem, and that saddens me.

    It is no good omen for the Catholic Church if those drawing on other traditions are better able to resist it, as your comments imply.

    You also write, “I think you have to restrain yourself a bit from the crusade motif on these matters. There are many of us who are in the middle on these questions and think they are worth discussing. But when people like you act as if some of us are committing some kind of heresy because we will not acquiesce hook-line and sinker to every jot and tittle of the DI-narrative, we begin to wonder whether you are truly serious about academic freedom and the call for mutual respect and dialog.”

    Let me be quite clear about this: The rapidity with which the issues are developing – for example, the way in which atheist religion professor Hector Avalos was permitted to harass astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez (and the subsequent tenure denial) – delivers me from the least concern about where those “in the middle” stand.

    They don’t stand anywhere. They don’t matter.

  16. fbeckworth — It is no coincidence that the only Catholics who are pro-ID are the most philosophically illiterate

    With respect, how does febeckworth define ID?

  17. Denyse,

    Thank you. I think “what evolution means today for all practical purposes for most lay people is” is right on target. This is what I see as the greatest difficulty in this debate.

    Fbeckwith,

    Francis Beckwith, I presume? If so, I believe I’ve seen some of your writings before. Pleasure to see you here.

    But I want to take issue with a claims of yours: I don’t think pro-ID Catholics are ‘philosophically illiterate’, even mostly. I think the issues ID raises are complicated, as is the treatment of evolution by others. I personally have doubts about whether design can be demonstrated scientifically (in a falsifiable way) – but I also agree with Denyse that ‘evolution’ was a corrupted thought long before ID arrived on the scene. It is shot through with philosophical assumptions and metaphysical goals as desired by many proponents.

    In other words, I’m probably close to your intellectual stance – but I don’t think it’s as cut and dry as you seem to argue. I wish all sides would relax and realize the prime problem with evolution is not the mechanisms or any of the actual ‘science’, but the social and philosophical warping that is so often attached to it. To defeat that IS to effectively defeat evolution for many people – the moment natural science is divorced from philosophy, metaphysics, and social/political aims is the moment the problems we see are solved.

  18. I really think that the separation between evolution and “evolutionism” is best exemplified by the theistic evolutionist, or the “by law” community. This community, for the most part, rejects any association with ID, though I personally see this as an ID position. The TE view is certainly compatible with Catholic doctrine.

    Is it possible that God arranged for the big bang, either by arranging for an infinite variety of big bangs (multiverse) or by arranging for one finely tuned big bang — ours? Is it possible that God arranged for a system of laws, some of which science has discovered? Is it possible that once God did this, he needed to do nothing but wait until the laws played out to produce an intelligent creature? Is it then possible that he chose to begin an interaction with this intelligent creature, even an interaction that required the sacrefice of his son?

    If the above is possible, if there is a significant community of Catholic scientists that believe that exactly this did happen, and if this community of scientists cannot tolerate the ID title (though I don’t understand why not, who says ID requires multiple ID events, just one is required) then this community accepts evolution but rejects “evolutionism” — abject, atheistic naturalism.

    I find it quite reasonable for Cardinal Schoenborn to respect this community when writing his book.

  19. Frank: As one philosopher to another, explain how ID is wedded to a nominalist and empiricist epistemology. I have some sophistication here. I’ve argued in my books that ID proponents can be realists or antirealists about science. I’ve argued that ID is not an interventionist theory. There is no grand ID metanarrative. The only thing ID is committed to is the inadequacy of evolutionary mechanisms as conceived in Enlightenment terms (thus mounting a fundamental critique of Enlightenment assumptions) and the detectability of design in nature. How design got into nature could be perfectly compatible with secondary causes and thus in line with classic Thomism (though I’m not so sure about contemporary neo-Thomistic attempts to find some common ground with Kant). Indeed, I’m surprised you invoke Thomas. He was definitely on the ID side. He was even a 24-hour 6-day creationist who believed that God, as a primary cause, formed the human body directly apart from any mediation (thus in contradiction to any form of evolution). Frank, you are sounding like a company man who, in joining the new company (RCC), is forgetting your roots. I expect your newfound RCC friends have a lot of negative things to say about ID. To what extent have they swayed you?

  20. 20

    Bill could you elaborate a little on the Thomism and it’s synthetic connection to Kant? I have read a lot of Kant and while he viewed evidence for (or against) God’s existence to be impossible, I don’t see how Kantian dynamics would exclude design from being the prime descriptive domain of elements (or all) of nature. I have heard that Kant argued against design but I don’t remember it in The Critique of Pure Reason.

    This is for me an absolutely fascinating topic of discussion as I greatly appreciate Kant’s contributions – Einstein in Kaku’s book “Einstein’s Universe”, was said to have finished reading The Critique at age 14. Gödel also found it helpful concerning issues of transcendentalism and If I gather it correctly Gödel viewed Kantian philosophy as a type of Phenomenology (Gödel was partial to Husserl’s phenomenological view of reality). Hope you will elaborate on this a bit Bill-

  21. 21

    fbeckwith,

    To claim that the catholic advocates of ID are “the least philosophically literate” is to me idiotic. The main reason is that 99% of all critiques of ID either fail to correctly define the theory or they just use ad hominem tactics (i.e. illiterate). Most people (myself included) who are advocates of ID are plenty comfortable debating it on its own merits in any philosophical debate or forum- the reason is that we are very philosophically literate. I just happen to be raised a Catholic btw, and while I don’t find your generalization the least bit offensive I call you out on the integrity truthfulness of your premises. Don’t try and use statistical arguments such as “most philosophy teachers polled don’t accept ID” because they fall under the ignorant category of the classical “fallacy by authority”- which you would know if you understood and appreciated logic. Credentials don’t make you philosophically literate- being able to defend and support your view through an intellectually honest argument does.

    Btw, I don’t really practice that much, but you are calling the kettle black invoking Thomas incorrectly to criticize Catholic’s philosophical ignorance and it‘s correlation with ID. You should reconsider your false premises and conclusion on the merits of your argument and this one waged against you- just incidentally by a Catholic.

  22. While I am here, what business had Tom Riddle to describe my reaction as “knee-jerk”?

    Every business in the world – by making the comments you do, and by putting it in a blog with an open submission, you invite public debate.

    But, why are you assuming that I am calling your reaction knee-jerk. I never said you were making a knee jerk reaction. I really was thinking about high profile evangelical leaders who, unlike leaders in the Catholic church, are very quick to give opinions on things.

    Also, the fact that you thought about it 4 months really means nothing. Thats because you speak for yourself – you do not speak for the entire Roman Catholic Church. That is a much greater responsibility than just about anyone can handle. So, if I were speaking for the entire RC Church, I too would move slowly on things I wasn’t 99% certain of.

    And, speaking of knee jerk reaction:

    as atheist religion prof Hector Avalos drove out gifted Christian astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez.

    thats one right there. Would you want the RC Church to come out and say that Avolos drove out Gonzalez? While I think GG was unfairly treated, its not as clear cut as what you make of it.

    His publication record at Iowa was less than stunnning, and his grants were pathetic for an R1 research university. I agree that Iowa wanted him out, but he did not help his case.

    Now, I don’t bring this up to restart the GG argument, but to stress that as a blogger you are free to accuse Iowa of wrongdoing. But, if you represent the RC Church, you better damn well have your facts straight, and the reality is, the GG issue is more complex due to his grants and publications. And, that is the reason why the Cardinal treaded lightly. He knows he doesn’t have ALL the facts yet, and as a representative of the RC Church, he wants to make sure he represents all the facts correctly.

  23. I’ve thought long and hard about these issues, years before I had become Catholic. Of course, one’s Christian communion is irrelevant to the quality of one’s case, which is what I often read from Denyse and Bill about themselves when such comments are leveled against them by Barbara Forrest and her ilk.

    My point was to defend the Cardinal, since I think he is operating with a different philosophical grammar than what operates in ID circles, which tends to be heavily influenced by the analytic tradition, which tends to see “science” as the model by which philosophy ought to be practiced. This, I believe, reinforces an empiricist understanding of knowledge that limits the scope of our critique of materialism.

    What I mean be “philosophical ignorance” has to do with the role of presuppositions on questions of science that influence one’s view of knowledge. If one, for example, believes that knowledge of immaterial realities is an inference from the senses, as someone like Locke argued, then the game is over. This is why I am deeply uneasy about Behe’s project more so than what Denyse has done with the mind-body problem.

    Remember that Thomas’ design argument–one of the five ways–cannot be divorced from his epistemology, which has to do with the intellect’s ability to have awareness of final causes that is not merely an inference from sense experience. This is why it is wrong to invoke Thomas as a sort of paleo-IDer.

  24. Frost122585: One of Kant’s big deals was to identify constraints on reason that allow us to have knowledge of nature (this knowledge, in Kant’s case, being Newtonian physics). Nature, for Kant, did not simply reveal itself. Rather, nature handed us phenomena, which our intellects then had to synthesize. But the synthesis for Kant took the form of a mechanistic physics (Newtonian mechanics). When neo-Thomists (e.g., Lonergan) try to merge classical Thomism (which is realist) with Kantian philosophy (which is idealist), invariably reality gives way to the conditions that our intellect imposes on it. These conditions typically leave no room for design and thus leave a materialist science untouched. Kantian neo-Thomists are to philosophy what theistic evolutionists are to theology. They relegate design to a sphere (e.g., metaphysics) where it has no scientific traction.

    By the way, Kant actually did like the design argument. He thought of design as a regulative principle that needed to guide our intellects and, in his First Critique, argued that it could successfully establish that an architect of some sort had designed the world. The problem is that the design argument could not establish that this architect was also a creator God who gave being to the world.

  25. fbeckwith,

    “If one, for example, believes that knowledge of immaterial realities is an inference from the senses, as someone like Locke argued, then the game is over.”

    Could you expand on that at all? Or even point me at a resource that expands on that?

  26. —–fbeckwith: The problem with the ID approach, as I think the Cardinal sees it, is that it is nominalist and empiricist in its assumptions. It is, in a word, epistemologically and metaphysically Protestant.

    Perhaps this would be a good time to ask about you about your understanding of nominalism. Let me give you a head start in an obscenely simplistic fashion. For me, the term implies that when our mind takes hold of a thing outside the mind, the image produced in the mind does not really reflect the thing at all. In other words, there is no correspondence between our rational minds and the rational universe. Put another way, we don’t really perceive reality, we simply create categories or “names” of things in our mind. With such a mind set, design can only be an illusion. Does that sound like ID to you?

    —–“It is no coincidence that the only Catholics who are pro-ID are the most philosophically illiterate, and the Protestant philosophers who are the most pro-ID are the least Thomistic in their philosophy of nature.”

    Well, I am a Catholic IDer and I have studied philosophy at the graduate level. Of course, I am just a humble blogger. Would you call George Weigel, biographer of Pope John Paul II, philosophically illiterate? How about the late William F. Buckley, who was a fierce ID advocate? Or, if you like the clergy, try Father Thomas Dubay, author of “The Evidential Power of Beauty.” Not every Catholic is like Ken Miller, Fr. Edward Oakes, or Fr. Thomas Heller.

    In any case, I would like to know how St. Thomas, who tried to prove the existence of God through a design argument, could be anti-Intelligent Design. Believe me, I will not pounce on the explanation. I am a sucker for a good argument, and I will entertain anything that is half way rational.

  27. fbeckwith, I think you are seeing seeing philosophical assumptions where they aren’t.

  28. fbeckwith at 23
    Thanks for your thoughtful insightful comments. I would welcome your further exploring some of the issues of presuppositions and ways of knowing.

    You note: “What I mean be “philosophical ignorance” has to do with the role of presuppositions on questions of science that influence one’s view of knowledge.”

    I have read comments that the increased biblical literacy from printing the bible, the expulsion of Jews from Spain who then tutored Europe in Hebrew, and the Protestant Reformation, led to an appreciation of God as lawgiver. That led to searching for laws in the book of nature. That in turn launched the scientific revolution.

    Now we have atheists appealing to the “enlightenment” and militantly objecting to any reference to any deity, and enforcing materialistic presuppositions as essential to science.

    I would welcome your comments or references to read further across this range of presuppositions.

    You note:

    If one, for example, believes that knowledge of immaterial realities is an inference from the senses, as someone like Locke argued, then the game is over.

    What of recognizing intelligent design among humans, and thence identifying design in biotic systems? e.g., by Dembski’s Explanatory Filter, or by the common recognition of design by reverse engineering.

    Does recognizing intelligent design among humans go beyond an empirical inference from the senses and necessarily involve revelation?

  29. The problem is that the design argument could not establish that this architect was also a creator God who gave being to the world.

    How is that different from yours?

  30. Frost122585 at 23
    Per your:

    “the least philosophically literate” is to me idiotic. . . .or they just use ad hominem tactics

    Why should your statement not be considered an ad hominem rant?

  31. Dr. Dembski, I know that you don’t conduct clinics on this site, so I understand if you don’t have time to answer a question. However, I am still waiting for Fr. Heller to explain what he means when he says that ID scientists confuse design with final causality. Or what Edward Oakes means when he claims that ID scientists, don’t understand the notion of Divine causality. Clearly, this is not that case as is evident to anyone who has read your books.

    The reason I bring it up is because I suspect that both of these men may be casualties of that school of thought that you alluded to—the one which tries to merge Kantian idealism with Thomistic realism. Do you have any idea what they are talking about? Where do they get these notions?

  32. 32

    DHL at 30- if I said inane it would mean the same thing. Also I’m not attacking an entire group of people or a well developed theory per se’ but a factually ignorant statement that both I and Bill corrected from different angles. Some things said in this world are just plain idiotic which is why the word exists and partially why it gets so much use laziness is another reason- one that I was guilty of.

    However I don’t need to resort to “just” a name calling game to make my point. The rest of post handled that. Though you are right in the sense that I did not need to use that word and am better off taking the higher ground.

    Thank you.

  33. StephenB, Ed Oakes lays it all out in these two articles:

    http://www.zenit.org/article-13684?l=english

    http://www.zenit.org/article-13696?l=english

  34. In case readers don’t want to hash through both lengthy articles to get to where Oakes trashes ID, here’s the key passage:

    Q: What are your objections to the Intelligent Design movement?

    Father Oakes: Primarily that ID advocates seem regularly to confuse finality with design. Now because people only design things for a purpose, the two concepts are too often conflated. But they are different.

    I think the great medievalist Etienne Gilson got the distinction exactly right in his book “From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species, and Evolution.” Here’s what he says on pages 9 and 10 of the book:

    “Aristotle conceives the [designing] artist as a particular case of nature [the realm of finality]. This is why, in his natural philosophy, art imitates nature, rather than nature imitating art. The contrary is imagined because — every man being more or less an artist, an artisan, and a technician — we know, more or less confusedly, yet with certitude, the manner in which art operates.

    “But insofar as we are natural beings, we are the products of innumerable biological activities of which we know practically nothing, or very little. The manner in which nature operates escapes us. Her finality is spontaneous, not learned. …

    “In nature the end, the ‘telos,’ works as every artist would wish to be able to work; in fact, as the greatest among them do work, or even as the others work in moments of grace when, suddenly masters of their media, they work with the rapidity and infallible sureness of nature.

    “Such is Mozart, composing a quartet in his head while writing down its predecessor. Such is Delacroix, painting in twenty minutes the headpiece and mantle of Jacob on the wall of Saint-Sulpice.

    “A technician, an artist, who worked with the sureness of a spider weaving its web or a bird making its nest would be a more perfect artist than any of those that anyone has ever seen. Such is not the case.

    “The most powerful and the most productive artists only summon from afar the ever-ready forces of nature which fashion the tree and, through the tree, the fruit. That is why Aristotle says that there is more purposefulness [in Aristotle's Greek 'to hou heneka'], more good, and more beauty, in the works of nature than in those of art.”

    I quote this passage at such length not only to show how design piggybacks on nature but also to hint at how design can gum things up. Think of Hamlet, whose tortured conscience led him to do the wrong thing at almost each step of the way after he heard of his father’s murder.

    I also object to the way the ID Movement conflates the Thomistic distinction between primary and secondary causality. The advocates of this movement claim that if it can be proved scientifically that God must intervene on occasion to get various species up and running, then this will throw the atheist Darwinians into a panicked rout.

    I disagree. My view is that, according to St. Thomas, secondary causality can be allowed full rein without threatening God’s providential oversight of the world.

  35. 35

    Thank you for your gracious reply at 24 Bill. Very elegant. I fully understand what you wrote. However the part about describing Kant as an idealist- I know that Kant is usually, even overwhelmingly referred to as an idealist by the mainstream but to me Kant’s goal was, as you so eloquently put it, to show the parameters of a naturalistic and or materialistic world view by arguing for rational parameters to reason hence separating the physical from the metaphysical and it was a synthesis of the meta-physical and the physical that I thought the COPR was about.

    When Gödel referred to idealism as in the ideality of time he was referring to something that is an illusion but by illusion I am not sure if he means a false construct of the mind or a possibly true one that cant be verified yet can be misleading or falsified in certain cases.

    Kant seemed to fully respect the world that exists outside the mind. That is he looked at math as describing things both empirically and conceptually that both had “reality”, but that outside of the mind there was an “objective reality” which can and does validate or negates mathematical perceptions. That is Kant saw both by thought they needed to be understood together. That to me though is not idealism. Gödel it seems looked at idealism as a sort of false construct- even the opposite of a philosophically critical world view such as Kant’s.

    While Gödel was a self declared Platonist, that is he thought math existed not simply in the mind and in nature but in an third domain,- Kant seemed to “inductively” respect and acknowledge numbers and math as the product of or an element or ornament of both physical reality and mind- but not as a existing in a separate third realm that is some how privileged and or individual of the mind and physical reality.

    [For the record the reason I use Gödel in the same breath as Kant is because his incompleteness is and was to him a verification of the Platonist reality of mind and the theorem is on one of the few gems we have manifestly exemplifying and revealing this truth.}

    I have quoted this before from The Critique but I find it useful to do it again…

    “The empiricist will never allow himself to accept any epoch of nature for the first–the absolutely primal state; he will not believe that there can be limits to his outlook into her wide domains, nor pass from the objects of nature, which he can satisfactorily explain by means of observation and mathematical thought–which he can
    determine synthetically in intuition, to those which neither sense nor imagination can ever present in concreto; he will not concede the existence of a faculty in nature, operating independently of the laws of nature–a concession which would introduce uncertainty into
    the procedure of the understanding, which is guided by necessary laws to the observation of phenomena; nor, finally, will he permit himself to seek a cause beyond nature, inasmuch as we know nothing but it, and from it alone receive an objective basis for all our conceptions and instruction in the unvarying laws of things.

    In truth, if the empirical philosopher had no other purpose in the establishment of his antithesis than to check the presumption of a reason which mistakes its true destination, which boasts of its insight and its knowledge, just where all insight and knowledge
    cease to exist, and regards that which is valid only in relation to a practical interest, as an advancement of the speculative interests of the mind (in order, when it is convenient for itself, to break the thread of our physical investigations, and, under pretence of extending our cognition, connect them with transcendental ideas, by
    means of which we really know only that we know nothing)–if, I say, the empiricist rested satisfied with this benefit, the principle advanced by him would be a maxim recommending moderation in the pretensions of reason and modesty in its affirmations, and at the same
    time would direct us to the right mode of extending the province of the understanding, by the help of the only true teacher, experience.

    In obedience to this advice, intellectual hypotheses and faith would not be called in aid of our practical interests; nor should we introduce them under the pompous titles of science and insight. For speculative cognition cannot find an objective basis any other where than in experience; and, when we overstep its limits our synthesis, which requires ever new cognitions independent of experience, has no substratum of intuition upon which to build.

    But if–as often happens–empiricism, in relation to ideas,
    becomes itself dogmatic and boldly denies that which is above the sphere of its phenomenal cognition, it falls itself into the error of intemperance–an error which is here all the more reprehensible, as thereby the practical interest of reason receives an irreparable injury.

    And this constitutes the opposition between Epicureanism* and Platonism.”

    So there it is in a nut shell. Kant respected both Platonism and Empiricism (which I think he means by Epicureanism). I don’t find that idealist- I thinks it’s very realist. Out of curiosity Bill, are you more Kantian or Platonist regarding mathematical reality? I am more Kantian but regarding reasoning, rationality, concepts and such I am very Platonist. I think the mind is more than machine- even Kantian philosophy can’t contain it. Mind to me owes its spark to spirit or “spiritualism” which for me resides beyond both mind and matter.

    Also, I would love to say that your use of NFLs to critique unguided evolution is something I had a natural intuition of in 9th grade when I was first shown Darwin’s full theory and his tree of life. It wasn’t a developed intuition but just a generalized sense that for example I thought “where does the good stuff come from?” and “why is it so manifestly organized and functional (almost self perpetuating), and symmetrical?” As far as symmetry I think Paley’s arguments still have a real kick to them-

    I knew that natural selection didn’t give you anything new and the random mutations part just seemed like a non-answer to me or a big “WE DONT KNOW” passing for a purely scientific, exhaustively explanatory, truthful fact of nature.

    Basically, I’m definitely one of your fans. Hope you will do a post some time again regarding the latest on the NFLs and how they are currently being used evolutionarily and or other wise. NFLs really take math and metaphysics and test how they align and stack up against perceived materialistic interpretations and theories of reality. Very important and very great stuff.

    Once again Bill thanks for responding to my post :)

    Your fellow uncommon dissenter,

    Frost, Christmas of 85.

  36. BarryA: Thanks for taking time out. I have actually read Etienne Gilson’s book, “From Aristotle to Darwin and Back,” and, as it turns out, I had also read the articles that you allude to. My objections come from having already aquainted myself with Oakes. It is not at all clear to me that St. Thomas’ world view rules out intelligent design. Quite the contrary, the two ideas seem quite compatible to me.

    Gilson points out that St. Thomas believed that God {A} created all beings in their finished form, which is about as far from Darwin as you can get. If he believed that, there is no reason to assert that he would not have accepted the notion that {B} God designed a DNA molecule. Father Oakes or one of his disciples needs to explain why {A} is compatible with a Thomistic account of Divine causality while {B} is incompatible with it. Do you see my problem here?

    Further, I see no reason to believe, as Fr Oakes claims, that ID scientists “confuse” or “conflate” primary and secondary causes. What evidence is there that Dembski or Meyer or any other ID scientist is unaware of this very simple distinction or incapable of applying it. I have read Dembski and Meyer and find no such misapprehensions. One might as well suggest that they cannot reason in the abstract, a flaw that is much more likely to emerge from the TE camp than from the ID camp.

    For what it is worth, Gilson was more sypathetic to Bishop Berkely than Darwin, so I don’t know why Oakes, who I gather is a Christian Darwinist, uses this reference to elevate Darwinism over intelligent design.

  37. There is no grand ID metanarrative.

    Far be it for me to disagree with a leader in the field, but “In the beginning was the Word” is about as meta as I think you can get.

  38. Poachy: I’m not saying ID proponents can’t tell grand ID metanarratives. But given the diversity of views within the ID community, there is no one metanarrative that holds sway. Minimally, what holds the community togethers is a critique of materialist evolution and a positive program for understanding design detection and information transfer.

    Frost122585: You’re right that “idealist” is too simple a designation for Kant. I was not so much concerned with Kant himself as in how he is taken over uncriticially (pun intended) by some of the neo-Thomists and critical realists. Can we have scientific knowledge of design in nature? Everything turns on this question.

  39. BarryA: Thanks for your posts about Fr. Oakes. Since you offer two links to his work, let me offer two links to mine which address his:

    (1)”ID as a Theory of Technological Evolution.” Don’t let the title fool you. Here is how the article starts:

    In Book II of the Physics Aristotle remarks, “If the ship-building art were in the wood, it would produce the same results by nature.” Aristotle is here contrasting nature and art. Nature provides the raw materials (here wood); art provides the means for fashioning those materials (here into a ship). For Aristotle, art consists in the knowledge and skill to produce an object and presupposes the imposition of form on the object from outside. On the other hand, nature consists in capacities inherent in the physical world–capacities that produce objects, as it were, internally and without outside help. Thus in Book VII of the Metaphysics Aristotle writes, “Art is a principle of movement in something other than the thing moved; nature is a principle in the thing itself.” Consequently, Aristotle refers to art as completing “what nature cannot bring to a finish.” Thomas Aquinas took this idea and sacramentalized it into grace completing nature.

    In Aristotle’s distinction between art and nature lies the central issue in the debate over biological evolution. The central issue is not the interpretation of Genesis, nor whether humans are descended from apes, nor whether all organisms trace their lineage to a last common ancestor. Indeed, where one comes down on these side issues is irrelevant to the central issue. The central issue is whether nature has sufficient resources in herself to generate all of biological diversity or whether in addition nature requires art to complete what nature alone cannot bring to a finish. The Greek word for art is techne, from which we get our word technology. The English word most commonly used to capture what Aristotle means by art derives not from the Greek but from the Latin. That word is, of course, design.

    The central issue in the debate over biological evolution can therefore be put as follows: Is nature complete in the sense of possessing all the resources necessary to bring about the biological structures we see around us or does nature also require some contribution of design to bring about those structures? …

    (2) “Making the Task of Theodicy Impossible: Intelligent Design and the Problem of Evil.” This article draws heavily on Kant and responds explicitly to Fr. Oakes.

  40. 40

    Dr. Dembski,

    I just read your 2nd article and I was thoroughly impressed with your consistency and clarity of logic:

    and I have only one thing that I can reply with:

    In Wonder – Newsboys

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hsmF5o68cw

  41. I must correct my own hasty ending at @36 implying that Fr. Oakes may be a Christian Darwinist. Clearly, he is as critical of Darwinism as he is ID. I hope that the earlier part of the comments made that clear.

  42. Oakes is barking up the wrong tree. ID has nothing to do with theodicy. The strategic significance of ID is that it fatally undermines materialism. Design is self-evident, and nothing in nature per se can account for it.

    Like Milton, Oakes wants to tell a story that justifies the ways of God to men (seems he has not read Job very carefully). He’s right about one thing—ID cannot produce such a story, as the chaos on this site amply testifies.

    But ID can communicate a tangible truth in way that is easily and intuitively grasped: nothing comes from nothing. The goodness that we see all around us could not have come into existence without some standard of value.

    Oakes apparently does not accept the claim that God brought creation into being through his word and saw that it was “very good.” His negative view of the value of nature is closer to Plato than Moses.

    Meanwhile Darwinism makes nature itself the designer of the overwhelming goodness and value seen in nature, which is risible.

  43. For the record, I said “DI narrative,” not “ID narrative.” An understandable mistake.

    Darwin is the bastard child of Protestant pietism (private faith) and science without final causes, both consequences of nominalism.

    To put it another way: if Luther and Bacon had a child, it would be Darwin.

    {DLH corrected with to without per below}

  44. Oops, I meant to say science WITHOUT final causes.

  45. It seems to me that Frank Beckwith has brought up what, for some of us, is the only issue worth discussing about ID, which is: Is Intelligent Design necessarily nominalistic and empiricist.

    I think this is a hard issue to discuss given what could possibly be meant by ‘ID’ and what is meant by the term ‘nominalist’, but it seems to me a clarification of terms here would be worth the trouble.

    I would love for Frank to articulate why he thinks ID (using, say, a definition acceptable to Dembski) is necessarily nominalist. It is a question I have thought about, but have yet to come up with an answer.

    It would also be enlightening for some of us who just don’t know the answer for Dr. Dembski to explain how ID gets around the charge that it must employ occasionalism in its argument for irreducible complexity.

    From a realist perspective, occasionalism–the idea, deriving from nominalism, that God directly causes each discrete effect in the secondary world–would cause a problem for any realist wanting to accept ID.

    If irreducible systems in nature have no mechanism by which they can be produced, then how can they be explained without resorting to occasionalism, and if they must employ occasionalism, then how can ID escape the charge that it is nominalist?

  46. Frank,

    Where does Galileo fit here? Maybe you could make him the bastard child’s uncle.

  47. Martin Cothran

    From a realist perspective, occasionalism–the idea, deriving from nominalism, that God directly causes each discrete effect in the secondary world–would cause a problem for any realist wanting to accept ID.

    I presume you are contrasting this with front loading in biotic systems or fine tuning?
    How is occasionalism – causing EACH discrete effect – any different a problem for a “realist” then causing ANY discrete effect as in a “big bang”, as in biotic front loading front loading?

    If there is no intervention and all is stochastic materialism, can anything be attributed to intelligent design?

    PS By “irreducible systems”, I presume you are referring to Irreducibly Complex systems as posited by Behe.

  48. Me thinks they’re still counting angels on the head of a pin (if that’s an urban legend me thinks it still fits).

  49. —–”allanius: Oakes is barking up the wrong tree. ID has nothing to do with theodicy. The strategic significance of ID is that it fatally undermines materialism. Design is self-evident, and nothing in nature per se can account for it. ”

    Exactly right.

    It seems that most ID critics who are believers use one of two arguments, neither of which are scientific:

    [A} A GOOD God would never have done it that way—the design was heartless (problems in theodocy)

    [B} An OMNIPOTENT God would never have done it that way–intervention should not be necessary.

    In both cases, the critic is imposing a prefertial ideology that poses as philosophy. Real philsophy recognizes the self evident truth that order requires an orderer and yes, a designer. Good science confirms the point.

  50. DLH: “How is occasionalism – causing EACH discrete effect – any different a problem for a “realist” then causing ANY discrete effect as in a “big bang”, as in biotic front loading front loading?”

    I suppose you can ask whether the two are different philosophically or historically.

    Historically, realists seem to have accepted secondary causality as the normal mode of nature’s operation, and that they have rejected occasionalism as a matter of course. Aquinas, being uncharacteristically uncivil, called it “stupid”.

    Philosophically, it seems to me you could make a reasonable distinction between the belief that events such as the creation and the Resurrection result from primary causality while all other events are the result of secondary causality (the action of cause in the secondary world without the direct occasionalistic act of God). This is just another way of saying that miracles are really miraculous, and different from other normal events that aren’t.

    If you can’t accept this, I don’t see how you can make a distinction between a miracle and a non-miracle.

  51. I am glad that the system finally mailed me a password in order to participate in this most interesting exchange.

    I must say that the tone of this “review” of Cardinal’s Schonborn latest book leaves much to be desired. I can understand the frustration of ID advocates with “Chance or Purpose?”, since it doesn’t provide any easy and clear-cut answers. Nevertheless, I have to agree with Tom Riddle when he says that the RCC (or its highest representatives) cannot pronounce summary statements or judgments that are not 100% factual or philosophically sound. The RCC is a twenty centuries old institution, with over one billion worldwide members and it has to be very careful in its pronouncements regarding matters that can affect the faithful. That is why the Church is so cautious when approaching science, and especially the subject of evolution.

    The most astute and lucid comments in this thread are the ones by Francis Beckwith and they are crucial for a sober understanding of what is at stake here. I think he is on the right track when he imputes a Protestant epistemological bias to ID theory, and that’s another reason why many Catholics/Thomists with sound philosophical formation are deeply reluctant to embrace ID. A good example that comes to mind is father Stanley Jaki, who has written extensively on the philosophy of science and evolution. He has some very poignant words for ID theorists.

    Although I deeply respect the works and commitment of people like Philip Johnson, William Dembski and Michael Behe, there are some very troubling aspects of ID. Most of the questions and critiques of Darwinism raised by the ID movement are very important, even urgent, but it is not very clear that the answers provided are enough or even on the right track. What bothers me most is that in a sense, IDers are like a mirror image of fundamentalist Darwinists: Darwinists want to claim that Science has disproved purpose, design, or “guided” evolution. At the same time ID tries to claim just the opposite: that Science has proved purpose, design or “guidance” in evolutionary processes. At the end of the day, it seems that both sides have it wrong.

  52. Martin Cothran at 50

    while all other events are the result of secondary causality (the action of cause in the secondary world without the direct occasionalistic act of God).

    Then how would you characterize the origin of life and on what basis? e.g.,
    1) the origin of the first living cell.
    2) the origin of man.
    What basis is there for design to distinguish such events from “secondary causality as the normal mode of nature’s operation,”?

  53. DLH: “Then how would you characterize the origin of life and on what basis? e.g.,
    1) the origin of the first living cell.
    2) the origin of man.”

    The short answer is I don’t know. I wasn’t there. I suspect that the origin of life was a direct occasionalistic act of God (i.e., a miracle). I also suspect, with less certainty, that the origin of man was caused in a similar way.

    I never said I didn’t believe in miracles, I just said that I believed there is a distinction between miracles and non-miracles.

    DLH: “What basis is there for design to distinguish such events from “secondary causality as the normal mode of nature’s operation,”?”

    I don’t think this is a very coherent question. If you mean how can a belief that the world is designed account for the fact that there are both miraculous and non miraculous events in that world, then I’d say it can account for it by positing that some events are miraculous and some aren’t, and by appealing to historical Christian belief that this is so.

    I’m failing to see what the issue is here. Maybe you could elaborate further on where exactly it is that you disagree with me.

  54. Stephen B49—you hit the nail on the head—you summarized in a very few words what others have spilled tanker ships of oil on (if you’ll let me exagerate just a bit).

    Anyway philosophy is a much neglected subject here in North America—which is a shame. The philosophers are partly to blame. The linguistic guru at my U once formed an interdisciplinary colloquium composed of linguists, philosophers, mathematicians, cog-sci, and computer sci folks. The first to bolt were the philosophers. It seems that until we could solve all the enigmas of epistemology we were not permitted to investigate and comment on the reality before us.

    Isn’t this the problem here? Until certain high muck-a-mucks grant us permission we are not allowed to observe the obvious. And when we do and incur their ire I think there’s no choice but to proceed without their permission.

  55. Oops! I meant tankerships of ink … mountains of TE drivvel if you ask me (which of course you didn’t).

  56. —–“Rude: “Isn’t this the problem here? Until certain high muck-a-mucks grant us permission we are not allowed to observe the obvious. And when we do and incur their ire I think there’s no choice but to proceed without their permission.”

    Rude, we appear to diagnose the problem in much the same way. Philosophy was designed to amplify common sense, not to militate against it—to provide first principles and standards of right reason, not to question their existence.

  57. Martin:

    I would define “realism” as the notion that the images in our mind accurately reflect the essence of an object outside of the mind (St Thomas), whereas nominalism refers to the idea that there really is no correspondence between the two, meaning that our mental images don’t really reflect reality (Kant), so we just give them “names” (hence “nominal”). It seems more of a problem about how much we know about what God is doing (epistemology) and less a problem about what God is actually doing (metaphysics).

    As I realist, I happen to believe that we have rational minds, we live in a rational universe, and there is a correspondence between the two. Thus, I would define truth as the correspondence between the mind and reality. This is the principle that started the whole scientific enterprise, and ID is well on its way to reviving it, which is another way of saying that ID is about to help restore the intellectual and mental health that was unnecessarily compromised by hyperskepticism. In that sense, realism is consistent with ID in ways that nominalism is not.

  58. Martin Cothran: Leaving aside ID, does God’s intervention in Christ’s resurrection require an occasionalist metaphysics? That seems absurd. So why should ID require it or have any special burden to refute it?

    Frank Beckwith: Are you serious about linking Luther and Bacon to Darwin? You might just as well say that Newton and Boyle gave birth to Darwin. Why is your newfound Catholicism leading you to attack Protestantism? In this thread alone the gibes just keep coming.

  59. Bill:

    I’ve not attacked Protestantism. I was referring to Luther’s nominalism in my probably lame attempt at humor.

    The most important book by an ID advocate, in my judgment, is Johnson’s Reason in the Balance. Not because it is the most sophisticated or the most ground-breaking. Rather, it explains what is at stake for our culture shaping institutions in embracing materialism whole hog. The question then is, How the heck did we get to this place? Was it merely that Paley did not have access to “Darwin’s black box” or is it a deeper philosophical issue?

    It seems to me to be more the latter than the former. This is why I am not, and have never been, a proponent of ID, for reasons having to do with my philosophical opposition to the ID movement’s acquiescence to the modern idea that an Enlightenment view of science is the paradigm of knowledge. By seeming to agree with their materialist foes that the mind or intellect cannot have direct knowledge of real immaterial universals, such as natures, essences, and moral properties, many in the ID movement commit the same mistake as the one committed by the late medieval nominalists such as William of Ockham, who gave us what is often called “Ockham’s razor,” though Ockham himself did not offer this precise formulation: “Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate” (translated: “entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily”). According to many scholars, the practical consequence of “Ockham’s razor” is that claims about a thing’s nature, purpose, or intrinsic dignity—universal properties it shares with other things of the same sort—are “unnecessary” for our scientific investigation of the world because they don’t add anything of explanatory importance to our direct empirical observations of the world. But if one thinks of science as the only or best way of knowing, then these claims are not “knowledge” and thus not real objects of academic inquiry. Couple this with an understanding of religious claims as exclusively the deliverances of special revelation and not subject to the rigors of philosophical assessment because they are irreducibly private and personal, you have in place a recipe for the death knell for dogmatic and moral theology as actual knowledge traditions. Hence, every time an ID advocate says, “this is not religion,” they are reinforcing an epistemological truce that was intended to do violence to the good, the true, and the beautiful.

    Although I continue to maintain that ID advocates raise important questions about the nature of science and whether science should presuppose naturalism (namely, the view that all that exists is the material universe and that there is no mind, such as God, behind it), I have doubts about ID’s answers and whether these answers can offer an attractive alternative to the inadequacies of the Enlightenment for the rationality of religious belief.

    I’ve held these views for many, many years, long before I became Catholic.

    This thread was begun by Denyse, who I think was particularly uncharitable to the Cardinal. My responses were intended to call attention to why the Cardinal would think the way he does. It has been brought to my attention that the way I did so did not further amity among Christians from differing traditions. My intent was to make a philosophical point in a provocative and readable way. I was not intending to divide the body of Christ. Again, I ask your forgiveness.

    FJB

  60. My last sentence in the above post should read: “I ask your forgiveness.”

    FJb

  61. —–fbeckwith: “But if one thinks of science as the only or best way of knowing, then these claims are not “knowledge” and thus not real objects of academic inquiry. Couple this with an understanding of religious claims as exclusively the deliverances of special revelation and not subject to the rigors of philosophical assessment because they are irreducibly private and personal, you have in place a recipe for the death knell for dogmatic and moral theology as actual knowledge traditions. Hence, every time an ID advocate says, “this is not religion,” they are reinforcing an epistemological truce that was intended to do violence to the good, the true, and the beautiful.”

    If I understand you correctly, you are suggesting that my commitment to Catholicism and Thomistic realism is at variance with my commitment to intelligent design. I wish that you would explain why you believe that. For the record, there is no conflict. That is why I criticized Father Oakes who trashes ID in the name of Thomism. I find that intolerable. If you want to know why, I commend to you “The Evidential Power Of Beauty, by Father. Thomas Dubay. This is real Thomism untainted by modernism and it is pure ID.

    While you are at it, share with me your reasons for believing that the ID scientists on the front lines are nominalists. Who among us believes that science is the “best way of knowing?” I’ll be the first to insist that philosophical first principles take logical precedence over science. So what? Does that mean that we shouldn’t do science?

    The reason we must emphasize the point that a design inference is not a religious enterprise is because materialists and CATHOLIC THEISTIC EVOLUTIONISTS try to discredit us with the false charge of doing science in the name of religion. They want science and its power to influence all to themselves. Toward that end, they call us “creationists” so they can create the public perception that a design inference is nothing more than a religious presupposition.

  62. Stephen:
    I think it is a little unjust to try to lump together materialists and “Catholic Theistic Evolutionists”. It smacks of a “if-you-are-not-with-us-you are-against-us” mentality that is divisive and unwarranted, considering the complexity, subtlety and (let’s face it) uncertainty of the issues involved. If you have in mind someone like Kenneth Miller as a prototype for a “Catholic Theistic Evolutionist”, well, what can you expect? Miller is only a biologist and I don’t think it’s fair to extrapolate from his philosophically naive positions as if he were the representative for all catholics.

    Another key aspect of the debate I find very troubling is this obsession with emphasizing that ID “is science not religion”. The moment you concede that religion and science are different spheres of knowledge, or even worse, that they are in conflict with each other, you are succumbing to the exact same mentality that has fostered materialism in the last century. Science is then posited as the only way of really knowing, and religion is relegated to the private sphere where values, opinions and subjective considerations reside. If we as Christians start by assuming as valid this science-religion dichotomy (as for example in the infamous NOMA theory advanced by the late Stephen Jay Gould) we are already in trouble. Half the battle is lost already.

    I understand that there are some powerful strategic reasons for distinguishing “science” from “religion”, but many of these reasons are explicitly cultural and historical, and specific to the United States. I might not be the best person to make this case, but you can read someone that has explored the origins of the evolution wars in the United States, like Steven Fuller. He argues that many of these ideological and philosophical conflicts have its roots in the way the US was founded, and specifically in the radical separation between Church and State that is at the heart of this country. I am pretty sure that many here are familiar with Fuller main theses and regardless of what you think of him, I believe that is very important to take a closer look at what he says. It might shed a lot of needed light to understand where the roots of the disagreements expressed here lie.

    There is much more to say in this regard, but I hope my points are not lost by my less than stellar presentation.

  63. jjNatteri:

    On the matter of lumping together materialists and theistic evolutionists, the point of interest is not that they are of the same mind, which they are not, but that they happily join forces to persecute ID, What they both have in common is their unscientific and ideologially based criticisms. You will recall that I made specific reference Fr. Oakes, a theologian who has had every chance to investigate the subject of intelligent design and place it in the proper context. If you like, I will add the name of Fr. Thomas Heller, Catholic and Templeton prize winner who labors under the same misconceptions. We could also speak of Barr, Haught, Miller and others, all Catholics who have taken an unnecessarily aggressive posture against ID on the grounds that it is insufficiently attuned to the principles Thomistic philosophy. In my judgment, they are wrong and their rationale is almost incomprehensible.

    With regard to the so-called dichotomization of religion and science, try to appreciate the hostile environment in which ID scientists must operate. On the one hand, when they point out the common points of interest between ID and theology, something that I gather you would find edifying, they are accused of doing science in the name of religion. These false charges have been raised IN A COURT OF LAW and ratified by an activist judge. On the other hand, when they explain the injustice that was done to them and emphasize the point that the two approaches are different, they must deal with the opposite false charge, namely that they are radically separating two branches of knowledge. I am sure that you can grasp the irony here.

    Also, please reread my earlier comments with the understanding that I am a Catholic and a Thomist, which means that I support the unity of truth. The last thing I would propose is that religion and science are in “conflict with one another.” The whole scientific enterprise was based on the idea that we can “think God’s thoughts after him.” All the great scientists of the past, in agreement with today’s ID scientists, believed, just as the Bible says, that the worlds design is evident. It is the theistic evolutionists who argue against this proposition. Some agree with Darwin that design is only an “illusion.” Others acknowledge design at some level, but they insist that it is undetectable. In any case, almost all of them accuse ID scientists of treating religion and science as enemies. Either they are ignorant or they are being disingenuous. Since they do this for a living, there is no excuse for their misapprehensions.

    With regard to America’s founding fathers, they believed in an “intersection” between Church and State, which means that it was to be neither a “union” (theocracy) nor a “radical separation” (secularism). On the other hand, it was clearly more religious than secular. If you ever read the original state constitutions (any of them), you will be bowled over by the religious language. You are right in suggesting that there is a relationship between the way this formulation is interpreted and the way ID is accepted. Many, if not most of those who mistakenly believe that Church and State should be radically separated, also mistakenly believe that ID scientists are unduly motivated by religion and vice versa. This should not surprise us. Those who will rewrite history to serve their own ends will also misrepresent ID for the same reason.

  64. Tried to post this 5 days ago, but I just now got the confirmation email.

    From the review:

    “First, as a matter of literal fact, our bodies are composed of hundreds of billions of machines. Indeed, biologists cannot avoid using the terminology associated with machines when describing the activities inside our cells, however they assume that the microscopic machines originated. In other words, to the extent that God is a ‘creator of natures,’ the natures he creates are composed of machines. Our billions of bodily nano-machines do not, of course, rattle or clunk, but that is because they are sophisticated, not because they are not machines.”

    You drastically misunderstand what Schoenborn says here. The “facts” do not demonstrate that tiny machines constitute our bodies, that is an interpretation. The concept “machine” has proved a useful way of solving certain problems related to the body, as for example viewing the cell as a machine. Nevertheless this establishes no more than that “machinery” of the body functions as a useful analogy; it does not mean that the “machines” really make up the body. Your confusion of fact and interpretation here demonstrate exactly what Schoenborn is saying: that God did not create machines (this is a modern prejudice without grounding in philosophy or theology), but natures; and it demonstrates that even those who question mechanistic materialism can unconsciously fall victim to its suppositions.

    The difference is an important one: the view of things as machines covers over the distinction between artifacts and natural things. Heidegger rightly accuses Aristotle of conceiving of natural substances on the model of artifacts, but even so Aristotle did not grant human artifacts (such as machines) substantiality. If one does not recognize the ontological difference between natural things and man-made things, one has made a very serious philosophical error that hopefully will not spill over into interpersonal dealings. The problem becomes quite pronounced when one tries to conceive of natural things in terms of man-made things, and I think it is at this point that ID has the most difficulty with any Aristotelian/Thomist ontology (or any ontology that doesn’t fall victim to modern mechanistic materialism). Put simply, when living beings are conceived of as machines, they are thereby divested of substantiality.

    Modern biology can escape this problem by strictly limiting itself, by acknowledging that it adopts a very limited perspective which does not express the full reality of living things. Once this view is taken as representitive of reality itself one has fallen into the mechanistic materialist ontology, even if one thinks he or she is opposing it.

    “Christ the evolutor?”

    … Have you read Teilhard? Bergson? You should make clear (as Schoenborn does) that the epiphenomenalists mean something very different from the ordinary use of evolution.

  65. tc: What are we supposed to do with the bacterial flaggelum’s motor? Are we supposed to pretend that it isn’t there?

    Why is ID not congenial to the Arisotelian/Thomistic notion of form and matter? According to ID, the designer forms matter into its patterns because nature’s mechanistic processes simply can’t pull it off. Part of nature is mechanistic and part of it isn’t. Why can’t the information in a DNA molecule be its form and the nucleotides be its matter?

  66. The bacterial flagellum is not a motor, and saying it is amounts to interpretation, not observation. We use the concept of a motor to have an understanding of the flagellum. There probably are other concepts under which nature could be understood, however nature would probably look much different in these cases. Neither mechanized nature nor other interpretations are more or less true, they all sublimate living forms under concepts and lose the essential and irreducible aspects of life.

    Biologists can get away with it as long as they admit that things like DNA and Motorized flagellum show up from a remarkably artificial (and especially reductionistic) way of looking at the world, and not the world of actual lived experience. The danger comes when scientists try to interpret the whole of life under mechanistic concepts, then declare this is the true world. Incidentally, this is the error of Dawkins and co.

    The fact that this seems so obvious — that nature is largely made up of living machines — demonstrates that in modern times we largely ignore the philosophical/phenomenological concept of life in favor of a scheme which interprets living things in terms of artifacts, specifically machines. This interpretation is utterly irreconcilable to an Aristotelian/Thomistic view of life.

    I didn’t mean to suggest that this means ID is incorrect, I don’t know enough to say that. In fact, I believe Dembski has said ID argues against a mechanistic metaphysic, and if this represents ID as a whole, that’s points in its favor. However, the design argument as I have seen it relies so heavily on the analogy between a living thing and an artifact that it seems to surpass mere analogy. Maybe this is overinterpretation on my part, and if so, please correct me.

  67. tc: Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    You have done a good job of expressing your objection in more than one way, which makes it a little bit easier to understand. Let’s explore your last comment:

    “However, the design argument as I have seen it relies so heavily on the analogy between a living thing and an artifact that it seems to surpass mere analogy. Maybe this is over interpretation on my part, and if so, please correct me.”

    First, realize that not all approaches to ID make this comparison. Let’s consider the anthropic principle, which advances the following argument: Life in the universe is possible only when certain physical constants are fine tuned to a level of precision that renders a chance explanation implausible. This is a straightforward argument, and it does not rely on “the analogy between a living thing and an artifact.” Fr. Thomas Dubay, for example, applies the anthropic principle to the formation of a bird’s wings. He points out that a random process, such as random variation and natural selection, simply cannot design bones and wings with the necessary precision to allow for all the twists, turns, and changes in direction that the bird must make during its flight. So, quite reasonably, he infers design.

    Next, let’s consider the concept of “irreducible complexity.” Michael Behe defines it as an irreducibly complex system as one “composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.” To illustrate, he does compare the bacterial flagellum to a mouse trap, but only to describe and dramatize the point that an irreducibly complex system is really irreducible, meaning that completeness is necessary for functionality. That being the case, the system cannot form through a gradual, step by step process, so it must be designed. In no way, does the design inference depend on an analogy or even a similarity between a human artifact and a living thing.

    Finally, let’s look at yet a third approach to the design inference. “Specified complexity” is a term that describes observable patterns in nature that can be explained only by the presence of intelligence. Now it is true that we find these patterns in “human artifacts,” as in hieroglyphic messages (on a cave wall), and in “living things,” as in clusters of nucleotides (in the genome). So, in a sense, this approach (and only this approach) is relative to your concerns. Notice, however, what we observe. We find that EVERY TIME that these patterns are present in an artifact, AND AT NO OTHER TIME, an intelligent agency was responsible. It is a “sign” of intelligent activity just as surely as an artist’s signature is a sign of intelligent activity, because nothing else (chance, law) can produce those kinds of patterns. So, when we find it in living things, we can be reasonably certain that they did not occur as a result of natural processes, because we know FROM EXPERIENCE that natural processes can’t produce them. So, we infer design.

    So, to sum up, most approaches to ID do not rely on the relationship between human artifacts and living things. Further, the one that does rely on that relationship can justify itself on the grounds that intelligence always leaves clues, whether its source is human, superhuman, or Divine.

  68. The notion that ID is un-Thomistic (harkening back to an earlier point in the discussion) is just ridiculous. Perhaps it is un-Thomistic in the way it is generally understood, but not when understood rightly.

    Most ID proponents and skeptics tend to view ID as being opposed to Darwinism, as it were, on an equal ground. That is to say, they view ID as a theory in its own right, opposed to Darwinistic Evolution. This, however, is wrong. ID doesn’t propose any theory of how species came to be constituted as they are, nor has it ever claimed to. This is both why the fanatical evolutionists are so desperate to deny it the cachet of “science” and the ID’ers themselves reject the label “creationist.” What ID is is not a biological or zoological theory. It is, in Aristotelian terms, simply an argument for the existence of final causes. That’s all. It is a prolegomena to science, just as surely as the justification for the existence of efficient, material, and formal causes is a prologemena to biological or any other species of science.

    So if ID is understood as some kind of demonstrative science opposed to Darwinism, then yes, it’s absolutely un-Thomistic. But if it is understood in its true character as an inductive argument based upon probable (albeit very highly probable) reasoning, then it is Thomistic in the highest degree, because Thomas was very far from denying Aristotle’s own assertion of the existence of final causation based upon his common sense observation of the world around him.

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