Then read further below about the philosophical errors of the Intelligent Design movement.
Please read pp.113–134 in Chapter 4 of How Science Enriches Theology.
See also ThomisticEvolution.org on "A Thomistic Response to the Intelligent Design Proposal".
For another advanced philosophical treatment of evolution see also C.S. Peirce.
"this theory views evolution as due to the interaction of several types of inter-related factors. It is not the individual that evolves but the species, and the species evolves not from some inner teleology but through interaction with the environment (natural selection). This environment is an ecosystem composed not only of geography and climate but also of other living things in mutual competition and symbiosis. ...
(1) epigenetic factors: the tendency of interbreeding population to reproduce itself in a stable manner and increase in numbers ("formal causality," i. e., the maintenance of type).
(2) genetic factor: the tendency to variation resulting from constant small random mutations in the genetic code ("material causality," i. e., a variety of differing individuals within a species capable of transmitting their differences).
(3) selective factor: natural selection by the environment which eliminates those variants which are less effective in reproducing their kind ("efficient causality," i. e., the agent determining in which direction species-change will take place).
(4) exploitative factor: the flexibility of living things by which they are able to occupy new niches in the changing environment ("final causality," i. e., a feed-back mechanism which guides the selective process toward a new type which can exploit new environmental possibilities).
It is the directive bias of the selective and exploitative factors which biologists now believe is responsible for the progressive, apparently teleological, character of evolution. In spite of the many dead ends, the interaction of all these factors results not only in the increasing adaptation of each species to its environment but also in the direction of organisms which are more and more complex, highly integrated, and relatively independent of their environment. Higher organisms have an "internalized environment."
-- Benedict Ashley 1972: 211-212 (summarizing the causal analysis of John Deely of evolution as "a return to the conception of science as reasoned facts, distinct from and superordinate to mathematized facts": Deely 1969a: 132)
WHAT SHOULD SCIENCE TEACHERS TEACH ABOUT EVOLUTION?
By Benedict M. Ashley, O.P.
The evolutionists, creationists, and intelligent designers are battling in the public media in a very confusing way. Catholics need to understand the true issues clearly and promote a way out of the dilemma. To do this, we must face the following questions:
1). What are the intelligent designers claiming? They argue not one but two distinct theses. The first is that Neo-Darwinism is an inadequate explanation of what we know about the historical succession of species; the second is that a better theory of evolution would include an Intelligent Designer who guides evolutionary forces to produce something as complex as organic life and above all the humanity of the scientist himself.
The leading theorist in this movement, Michael J. Behe, associate professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, believes that evolution of species has taken place and that the causes on which Neo-Darwinism relies, namely, chance mutation of genes and survival of organisms better adapted to different environments, may play a role in evolution. He is also open to an alternative theory of evolution that grounds it in some law inherent in matter. But he argues that Neo-Darwinism as the total explanation of evolution has recently been made utterly improbable by our discovery of the extreme chemical complexity of life.
2). Leaving aside for the moment the issue of the need for an Intelligent Designer, is it or is not true that Neo-Darwinism is a satisfactory scientific explanation of the paleontological succession of life forms? Neo-Darwinism greatly strengthened Darwin's theory of natural selection by adding to it the Catholic priest Gregor Mendel's discovery that the genes transmit heredity and the subsequent discovery that genes can change by chance mutations.
This improved theory has been accepted by the great majority of modern scientists who therefore are no longer interested in views like those of Teilhard de Chardin, popular for awhile among Catholic theologians. Teilhard thought that there is a natural "law of evolution" inherent in matter, such as the natural laws of gravitation and electromagnetism, that would necessarily or at least with high probability predict that matter would evolve to produce life and ultimately Darwin! This type of evolutionary theory was proposed by St. Augustine who spoke of rationes seminales (seed principles) implanted by God in chaotic matter that would cause it to evolve to its present condition. Behe and other Intelligent Designers consider that a possibility.
Many people, even those who have studied some science, confusedly suppose that this is what modern evolutionists hold. In fact, for Neo-Darwinism what holds as the only law of evolution is what the popular advocate of that view, Richard Dawkins, calls "the selfish gene". When some gene or genes of an organism mutate by chance (but not by any necessary law) it may be able to reproduce and survive environmental changes better than its generators. Gradually these new variations become new species. But, as Behe argued, this leaves the question of whether in fact life would ever exist in our universe, or produce something as complicated as the human brain, completely in the dark. Thus another great advocate of evolution, the late Stephen Jay Gould, always said it was just as likely that the universe remain lifeless, or that nothing but bugs should have evolved, as that it should have produced life or man. All Behe adds to this is to conclude, as Gould did not, that since Neo-Darwinism is so inadequate, we ought to conclude that evolution is ultimately due to an Intelligent Designer.
3). What did St. Thomas Aquinas think? St. Thomas accepted the Genesis account of the six days of creation as literally true, but left room for St. Augustine's view. Aquinas (a) knew none of the scientific facts that today support evolution and (b) did not know the parallel texts of ancient pagan accounts of creation that to modern scholars show that Augustine was right in reading the Genesis account as metaphorical. Thus St. Thomas' famous Five Ways to prove God's existence in no way depend on the facts that support Neo-Darwinism or Intelligent Design, but are much more fundamental.
Intelligent Design, as Behe presents it, is a mathematical theory of probabilities, and as such itself is only probable and dialectical. Aquinas' arguments, however, and especially the First Argument from motion that he called the "most evident" of the five, follow logically from the simple fact that the world we live in is changing and that every change is the effect of some cause or series of causes that cannot be infinitely long but must end in an uncaused cause.
Since all scientific reasoning must be logically consistent, and be based on the principle of causality and the fact of change, Aquinas' proof holds for every possible scientific theory. The only important attempt to refute his argument was given by Immanuel Kant, but only at the expense of ending in idealism, which no scientist can seriously accept. The Aristotelian-Thomistic proof, however, does not directly prove the existence of a personal, intelligent God, but this becomes evident when we realize that since we, like the universe, are products of the First Cause, then It must be super-intelligent. Thus Christians need not rely on current Intelligent Design arguments, since belief in God is logically presupposed to the possibility of scientists or their science.
4). What then should our Public Schools teach about evolution in their science classes?
What the teacher and the textbooks should make clear is something like this:
The great majority of scientists today hold that, on the basis of fossil evidence, an evolution of species, including the human species, has taken place. The best explanation they have yet found is that it was caused by the chance mutation of genes and the natural selection of organisms having particular genes in a changing environment. This explanation, however, like most scientific theories today, remains only probable, until we know the facts better.
Moreover, it can be reconciled with a belief in a Creator, although some Christians interpret the Bible to deny that species have evolved, and even give some scientific evidence for this, but not enough to satisfy most scientists. Other Christians (who do not interpret the Bible in this way), Jews, Muslims and the Eastern religions, may also accept evolution, yet hold that this is the way in which God has chosen to create the world, by using some parts of his creation to cause others to develop. Some, who accept the fact of evolution, use what is called the argument from Intelligent Design to argue mathematically that Neo-Darwinism is a theory that has too small a probability to be successful, unless there is an Intelligent Designer; but more fundamental arguments for the existence of God have much wider acceptance.
The fact that Neo-Darwinism is open to criticism does not, however, deny its scientific importance, since all science progresses by improving existing theories. It is the business of this science class to explain that theory. In other classes here, and in your churches or synagogues or mosques, you will learn about other views and be able to compare their arguments. That is what living in a democratic, multicultural society requires.Posted 8/28/2005