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Darwinism: is it a threat to the Catholic faith?

Clive Copus and Stratford Caldecott debate the theory of evolution

By and on Wednesday, 18 August 2010

A visitor to the American Museum of Natural History in New York inspects a display of animal skeletons  (AP Photo: Mary Altaffer)

A visitor to the American Museum of Natural History in New York inspects a display of animal skeletons (AP Photo: Mary Altaffer)

Dear Stratford,

I’d like to begin by briefly outlining why I believe this issue is so important. You do not need me to remind you of the huge problems afflicting our society: the annual slaughter of the unborn, the increasing perception of the elderly as a burden, the high incidence of depression among our young people, often manifested in self-harming. The root cause is the increasingly widespread belief that human life has no ultimate meaning, value or purpose, and this in turn derives from our society’s rejection of the supernatural.

The Church, of course, has the answer to these problems, but, in the current climate, it is increasingly difficult for her to obtain a hearing. Child sex abuse scandals do not help in this regard, but the problem goes much deeper. The Church is no longer taken seriously because many people regard Christianity as the intellectual equivalent of a fairy tale. Secularists make no secret of the belief system that underpins this view: Darwinian evolution. If, as Darwin held, life is simply the unintended consequence of natural selection acting on random mutations, there really is no need to invoke God as the ultimate cause of our existence, or to seek any meaning in life beyond the struggle to survive and procreate.

Let me summarise what the Catechism teaches on these matters. It states in paragraph 295 that “God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance”; and, in paragraph 356: “He [Man] is the only creature that God has willed for its own sake.” Paragraph 36 teaches that ‘…God, the first principle and last end of all things, can be known with certainty from the created world by the natural light of human reason’. If there is one thing that the Pope and Richard Dawkins ought to be able to agree on, then, it is that Darwinian theory and Catholic teaching are diametrically opposed.

However, the response of many in the Church has been to accept the Darwinian view at face value, and to attempt to reconcile it with the Church’s teachings. These attempts invariably entail an acknowledgement that we are the products of natural selection acting on random mutations, coupled with an assertion that God set this process in motion. This deist conception of God effectively reduces Him to the status of a cosmic lottery player, and mankind to His rollover jackpot prize. Not surprisingly, it is viewed with disdain by most Darwinians, who recognise that, if you don’t require God as part of the explanation, there really is no reason to include Him at all. As their high priest, Richard Dawkins, succinctly put it: Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Best wishes,
Clive

* * * * *

Dear Clive,

Eloquently put. I find myself having some sympathy with your concerns, but I cannot go along with your conclusions. Certainly I agree that in our highly secularised society Catholic teaching can seem to many people like a fairy tale. That is understandable. As C S Lewis came to see after a famous conversation with Tolkien, it is like a fairy tale. But it also happens to be true.

Let me start my side of the argument, as you did yours, with the Catechism. You cite three sections that you say prove the incompatibility of Catholicism with Darwinism. They do nothing of the sort. Take paragraph 295, which states that the world “is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance”. What the Catechism has in mind here – as the context makes clear – is the creation of the world from nothing. That would apply whether evolution takes place or not. The question is, why does anything exist at all? Why do the laws of nature, whatever they are, describe a real world? If everything evolved out of energy, where did the energy itself come from – or the many physical constants and laws that seem to determine the way it develops and how it acts? God is the answer to that question. According to para 301: “He not only gives them being and existence, but also, and at every moment, upholds and sustains them in being, enables them to act and brings them to their final end.”

In para 283, the Church in fact seems quite well-disposed towards the theory of evolution: “The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers.”

As you say, man is deliberately willed by God (para 356), and in fact God’s providential care extends to all His created works, not just man. Why could that care not include some provision for the evolution of species? In para 302 we learn that “Creation has its own goodness and proper perfection, but it did not spring forth complete from the hands of the Creator. The universe was created “in a state of journeying” (in statu viae) toward an ultimate perfection yet to be attained, to which God has destined it.” The question is left open whether this “journeying” from imperfection includes some kind of evolutionary process. Surely that is a matter for empirical investigation.

You rightly disdain the idea that God simply set the process in motion, which then proceeded by random mutation without any further involvement on His part. But the Catechism talks of God sustaining things in being and bringing them to their final end, not merely letting them get on with it. He does the same with us individually. Believers know that the “random” events that happen to us each day form part of a wise order in which we are led towards God. Perhaps the same applies to genetic mutations.

Best wishes,
Stratford

* * * * *

Dear Stratford,

Thank you for your response. I take your points about the Catechism, although it seems to me that paragraph 295 encompasses more than just the world in the limited sense of land and sea, as it refers to God making creatures to share in His being. But, while I accept that the Church has not dismissed the notion of evolution in the broadest sense, I remain of the view that the Catechism does not – and cannot – endorse the Darwinian version, because it is incompatible with her view that all creatures (including Man) have been willed by God. If God wills something, it cannot also be attributed to chance.

Further, we should not underestimate the difficulty of formulating a philosophically and scientifically robust “non-Darwinian” version of evolution that is compatible with Church teaching. First, such theories invariably assume the existence of God. So, for example, you say that believers “know” that random events form part of a wise order in which we are led towards God. That may be true, but it will cut little ice with the unbelievers we are trying to reach out to. Further, such theories are generally unable to demonstrate that Darwinism is a causally inadequate explanation, so they have no grounds for invoking God as an additional causal factor in the evolutionary process. It follows that, if God is not required to explain evolutionary change, the best that they can do is demonstrate that evolution does not preclude the possibility of His existence, and that is an extremely weak philosophical basis for theism.

This huge concession to materialism is actually quite unnecessary. As you say, these are matters for empirical investigation, and modern science has taught us that what sets life apart from “non-life” is information. The genetic code – or DNA – is nothing less than an astonishingly complex set of instructions on how to build a human being. Sets of instructions do not (and cannot) evolve by natural selection acting on random mutations. By analogy, undirected natural causes can place letters on a scrabble board, but they cannot arrange them as meaningful words or sentences. To obtain a meaningful arrangement requires an intelligent agent.

This is not “god of the gaps”, as critics of Intelligent Design often allege. Rather, it is a straightforward inference to the best explanation, based on what we know about the origin of complex, specific and functional information. It does not simply assume the existence of God, and it dovetails neatly with traditional Church teaching that we can know Him from creation.

When Einstein demonstrated that the universe must have had a beginning, he provided compelling evidence for the traditional Christian view that it was created. Now science is providing compelling evidence that man was designed, just as the Church has always held.

Faith and reason do indeed go hand in hand, but there should be no room for outdated Darwinian materialism in this relationship.

Best wishes,
Clive

* * * * *

Dear Clive,

First, I question your assertion that “if God wills something, it cannot also be attributed to chance”. To attribute something to chance is simply to say that there is no cause known to science, no particular reason for the event. “Chance” is not an entity that might be responsible for the event: it is just an admission of ignorance. But a theist might well see the hand of God in a concatenation of circumstances that in scientific terms “just happened”. For God is the orchestrator of chance. As I said before, we believe that events are governed by a wise order, and God’s will is the source of that order, as it is of the very existence of things. So there is no conflict here. A thing may happen “by chance” and yet be willed by God, or at least permitted by God.

Similarly, we are not invoking God as an additional causal factor simply because Darwinism (to use that shorthand name) is inadequate. Whether the theory of evolution by natural selection is inadequate or not is for scientists to determine within their own terms of reference. Let us assume for the sake of argument that some future supercomputer, fed with all the assumptions of science and information about the early state of the universe, could model exactly how complex life forms developed from simple molecules under environmental pressure. Even then, God would still be needed to ground the existence of every stage in the process, and the laws that govern it. God is the Act of Being.

I am not arguing for Darwinian materialism. Writers like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett seem to think evolution is the “theory of everything”. It isn’t. I am simply saying that a theory of evolution is not necessarily incompatible with a Christian understanding of providence and design. Professor Ernan McMullin, for example, argues that we should take a closer look at St Augustine’s idea of “primordial seeds” or “seminal reasons”. His view was that God implanted in nature, from the beginning, the potential to unfold into the various species or families of creatures. We can trace these “seeds” back to the ideas in the mind of God, and then follow the way they unfolded in time through the process of evolution. The forms of creatures pre-existed in God, in other words, and the world was designed in such a way that they would emerge from it in due time.

In order to make sense of this today, we need to rescue notions of formal and final causality that have fallen into oblivion. I think this is part of what is meant by the “broadening of reason” the Pope was calling for in his Regensburg speech back in 2006.

Best wishes,
Stratford

* * * * *

Dear Stratford,

Thanks for your reply. Are you saying that mankind was merely permitted to come into existence by God? I am fairly sure that this is not the meaning of “willed” intended by paragraph 356 of the Catechism; nor does it accord with the teaching of the Scriptures. It does, however, highlight the dangers of attempting to reconcile Church teaching with the Darwinian view. Indeed, I hope that I am not being too melodramatic if I say that it leads to one of the most fundamental principles of our faith being compromised. Further, it makes it much more difficult to make the case for the uniquely precious and privileged status of humanity that is the basis for the Church’s teachings on everything from abortion to social justice.

The concept of “primordial seeds” is interesting but it is similar to your own “wise order applying to genetic mutations” in that it assumes the existence of God, and then tries to find a role for Him in the evolutionary process. The difficulty with this is that if, as Darwinists claim, that process works perfectly well without any divine input, why should we invoke God at all? Unless, therefore, we can show that Darwinism is unable to explain particular features of the natural world, we will never be able to develop a convincing case for God’s role in creation.

As I have already mentioned, Darwinism cannot account for the existence of biological information. Pointing up its inadequacies is, however, only half the battle: we also need to make a positive case for the design alternative. The key to this is the relatively simple and straightforward insight that only a designer – that is, an intelligent agent – could be responsible for the information in DNA. The beauty of this approach is that it does not simply assume the existence of God; nor does it try to accommodate Him within an essentially materialist framework that could manage perfectly well without Him.

In one sense, there is nothing particularly new or radical in this: it is simply an updated and powerful restatement of St Thomas Aquinas’s argument from design. It is only “controversial” to the extent that secular philosophy had assumed that Darwin had rendered the design argument (and God) obsolete, and is therefore unable to come to terms with its re-emergence. The Church, of course, should have no such problems, but seems strangely reluctant to endorse it. Perhaps, however, that should form the basis of another discussion.

Best wishes,
Clive

* * * * *

Dear Clive,

Your patience with me is appreciated. The main point I want to make is one made by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in Chance or Purpose (and Conor Cunningham in his forthcoming Darwin’s Pious Idea) – that people on all sides of the debate tend to make dubious philosophical assumptions without realising they are doing so. The problem with Intelligent Design approaches is that they make God into an agent within the cosmos, missing the point that he is not a cause within the world, like other causes investigated by science. God is a different type of cause: the cause of the world as such. This does not mean that God merely “permits” the development of a new species. He actively wills it, but he brings it about and shapes its ends by a kind of “vertical causation” that is not amenable to scientific investigation.

Evolutionists are just as bad. The scientific case for macro-evolution does not appear to be as strongly established as many of them would like us to believe. James Le Fanu in Why Us? argues that evolutionary science and genetics are on the brink of a paradigm shift. I am not qualified to judge the scientific debate, but it is clear to me that many exponents of evolution assume their theory must be a complete explanation not for good scientific reasons but because of their ill-founded commitment to atheistic materialism.

Daniel Dennett’s blockbuster, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, denies that biological information needs a conscious creator. There are no instructions from on high, just molecules and chains of molecules that combine and recombine in different ways, leading to the replication (with occasional variations) of certain cells. The accumulation of “positive mutations” over time remains hypothetical, it has not been demonstrated, and yet Dennett’s faith in evolution is religious in its fervour. What is more, he assumes the human mind is a product of material evolution, even though our conscious experience is itself clearly a non-material phenomenon. I am left feeling that while evolution may indeed occur, it cannot offer a complete account of reality, and there are plenty of hints that an even bigger idea will be needed to take science to the next level.

So perhaps we are not so far apart after all. I recommend Joseph Bolin’s booklet Darwin and Evolution (CTS) for a more developed discussion of many of the points we have raised. Among other things, he says that St Thomas’s view of creation “leaves room for a natural sequence such as evolution in the created world, whereby one type of living being comes from another”. Brolin also distinguishes the view that evolution is a fact from the theory that natural selection and random mutation constitute the principal cause of evolution.
The jury is still out. What we can be sure of is that human beings are not the product of “chance” alone but are willed by God, in love and for love.

Best wishes,
Stratford

Clive Copus is a director of the Prolife Alliance. The views expressed here are his and not those of the Alliance. Stratford Caldecott is the editor of Second Spring and the author of Beauty for Truth’s Sake. He lives in Oxford

  • Clive Copus

    Thanks for your comment.

    I suppose that is a possibility but I don't think it's more likely – even to the objectively minded – than the existence of an all-powerful Creator. In any case, you are still left with the problem of who designed the aliens. Ultimately, you will need a 'first cause' that has always existed, i.e. that is outside time and space. God is the only realistic candidate for this role.

  • Clive Copus

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that the apparent fine-tuning of the universe's laws is strongly supportive of creation, but I don't agree that evolution is one of those laws, or that man is the inevitable outcome. It seems to me that you're assuming what you're seeking to prove.

    Theories of intelligent design are based on the current state of knowledge about genetics. They are not based on ignorance of genetics.

    I suppose it is possible (just!) to imagine a future discovery of a purely naturalistic process or method by which genetic information might be generated, but I don't think it should dissuade us from using current knowledge to support the case for design. Isn't it a bit cowardly to ignore the evidence just in case future generations come up with alternative theories?

  • Anthony

    I think it is prudent to tread carefully where scientific discovery is concerned. By the end of the 19th century scientists had all but denied God because they thought they had most of the answers. Then along came the Relativity theories and Quantum mechanics which turned the scientific world upside down. Rather than filling the gaps that we did not know, they opened up new dimensions in science and made us realise how little we actually know about nature, and that there is infinitely more to know than what we know already.

    I am convinced that it is only a matter of time before further breakthroughs are made in the field of genetics which may render obsolete any reservations we may have about the generation of genetic information. In that sense I believe that intelligent design is a “hostage to fortune”, relevant only momentarilty until it is disproven. I would not wish to risk my belief in the divine origin of man on the shifting sands of scientific discovery. On the contrary, I am of the firm belief that scientific inquiry will lead us to God of its own accord.

    For example, theoretical advances in physics, all from differetnt perspectives, are pointing to the notion that space and time far from being a continuous flow are arranged in discrete units like pixels on a television screen which produce a smooth picture. This infers that the background upon which the discrete units of space and time are imposed is spaceless and timeless. A universe which emerges from a foundation of spacelessness and timelessness is, in my view, highly consistent with the notion that it was created by God outside of space and time.

  • Clive Copus

    I take your point but I would rather base my faith on shifting sands than the fresh air of no scientific evidence at all.

    You say that scientific evidence will lead us to God. I agree, and would argue that that is precisely what genetics is doing. I do not see any difference, in principle, from this and the theoretical advances in physics to which you refer. Are not the latter also shifting sands? If cosmology can lead us to God, why not biology?

  • Anthony

    Dawkin's latest book “Greatest Show on Earth” is, to my mind, a successful argument against creationism and intelligent design. It explains scientifically that each organism, man included, appears as a necessarily-surviving biological hotch-potch resulting from an age-old sequence of trial and error, sometimes tragic and always wasteful. How could a hands-on intelligent designer be so messy, argues Dawkins convincingly.

    As a Catholic I value Dawkin's input as a scientist. Rejecting the notion that life evolved randomly, he states towards the end of his book that the life that surrounds us “is no accident, but the direct consequence of evolution by non-random natural selection”. (p.426). So you see, here we have Dawkins who in the past proclaimed the sheer randomness of evolution of as justification for the non-existence of God, now admitting that the evolutionary process, although messy, is no longer arbitrary but fixed, and that the products of evolution such as current living things, including mankind, are inevitable.

    That mankind is an inevitable part of creation, willed by God, is, of course, what the Church teaches. By admitting that mankind is an inevitable evolutionary consequence of the universe, Dawkins has unwittingly laid the responsibility for the development of man firmly at the door of whoever or whatever originated that universe. The argument for God has now left the confines of evolution and moved on to the question of the origin of time and space. Biological evolution just remains a scientific process, like geological formation or star formation. The real battle for God lies in the origin of the universe.

  • Anthony

    Correction.

    “here we have Dawkins who in the past proclaimed the sheer randomness of evolution of as justification for the non-existence of God”
    should read
    “here we have Dawkins who in the past proclaimed the sheer randomness of evolution as justification for the non-existence of God”.

  • OrlandoCatholic

    It seems to me that refuting Evolution [in whatever form science finds at the time, and this changes] as if God's Creation and the unfolding of His Plan [by whichever evolving pattern He chose] were mutually exclusive is shallow and casts aside the MAIN point of the Creation story –that He CREATED OUT OF NOTHING or “ex-nihilo”. This is what is truly important! NOTHING existed PRIOR to His Creation, therefore, even if after His initial creation, everything keeps unfolding and further evolving, this is NOT contrary to His Plan.

    Moreover, since some blast through the amazing creation of the entire Universe and go right into Mankind, keep in mind that Humans are both BODY and SPIRIT.

    Even if our bodies, as part of the animal kingdom from the bodily perspective, continue to evolve after the initial spark of creation by the Lord, there is the matter of our SPIRITS.

    Just as in the case of angelic beings, none of which can reproduce and MUST be directly created by God –therefore, each one its own species, per Aquinas– our SPIRITS MUST be created directly and uniquely by the Lord, at each conception of a human.

    Therefore, God's masterpiece has a dual nature –inseparable– bridging the 'seen and unseen' in the rest of His Creation, for His eternal Glory.

    Maybe we could put at rest the shallow theological understanding of the importance of our nature –at once bodily and spiritual– aside to pay respects to the deep significance that the Lord created ALL that IS out of nothingness….AND also keeps sustaining ALL that IS out of LOVE!

    Pax Christi.

  • OrlandoCatholic

    As Catholics, we need to go back to study our deep, rich theology, by Catholic Early Church Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church, as well as by Catholic theologians.

    The practice of following the currents of the recent Evangelical & Reformer Protestants is devaluing our Holy Tradition.

    Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, for example –and there are many others as well– but these two were main forces in this endeavor, utilized scientific rigors acceptable in their times, insisting that we should never be afraid of these. Both utilized the pagan –mostly Aristotelian– proofs and logic, as well as his scientific underpinnings, in their proofs and analyses.

    Catholic Holy Tradition includes the legacy of great saints who were also great scientists, as well as the legacy of scientific minds who have not been canonized but who are highly regarded for their rigorous science as much as their piety, such as Columbus, Pierre & Marie Curie, Gregor Mendel, Roger Bacon, William of Occam, Duns Scotus, Louis Pasteur, among others…and these are just the Franciscans.

    Holy Catholic Tradition has always been highly scientific, seeking to discover the truth of God within our Universe, created and sustained by His Mercy. I respect other Christian traditions, but frankly, in the case of some, of their theology -as does their science- leave a lot to be desired.

    Pax Christi.

  • Johnmckeating

    Another gap for your god to hide in.

  • Holdemjeff

    In my Bible the first three words are “In the beginning”. Until Einstein and modern physics came along this statement had to be taken on faith. We now accept as fact that which was before only an idea in an ancient religious manuscript. Perhaps honest scientific inquiry will also discover that the next two words in Genesis is a scientifically acceptable description of what the primal cause of the big bang was. After all the question has to be asked what caused the big bang. Whatever Force can cause nothing(singularity) to explode at such magnitude, in such order and symmetry can design a few strands of DNA.

  • Gusto

    “One last thing – please give me a credible example of any miracle or apparition that cannot be explained by science.”
    All of them. The Church declares a miracle (not all of them) has occurred where the following has occurred:
    It is instantaneous
    It is permanent
    It had no medical intervention
    It can't be explained by science.

    For example – I know of a person who was diagnosed with AIDS – the medical records confirmed it – and then one day all evidence of it disappeared. Another where the issue was cancer same thing – the medical records confirmed it – and then one day all evidence of it disappeared.

    A famous example is that of atheist – Nobel laureate – Dr Alexis Carrell. He saw a lady Marie Bailly who was very close to death from tuberculous peritonitis (she had her medical history with her on pilgrimage) and with solid masses still in her distended stomach – and then before his own eyes her stomach deflated and all evidence of her fatal condition disappeared. He tried so hard to explain it with science but couldn't.

  • Anthony

    The notion of scientific “gaps” in knowledge is an atheist-inspired misconception. Instead of a sea of knowing occasionally marked with pockets of unknowning, science is a vast sea of unknowing sprinkled with a few dots of knowing. The more we learn, the more we realise we do not know.

  • Mephistophiles

    Is that really the best you can do? I'll alway refer to a dictionary for definitions over the Catholic Church any day, and the dictionary definition of a miracle is “an act or event that breaks the laws of nature, and is therefore thought to be caused by the intervention of God or another supernatural force”.

    What you've given me is conjecture – nothing more than opinion. Name me the peron with AIDS who “miraculously” recovered; and the person with cancer which “disappeared”, then I will tear those stories to shreds.

    Dr Alexis Carrell, who died in 1944, apparently experienced somebody recovering from an illness and he could not explain it – therefore god exists? That's insane reasoning. Medicine has come a long way since the early 20th century, and there's probably not much doubt that what he witnessed could be explained rationally.

    A REAL miracle would be parting the Thames River, or moving Mount Everest – that's the problem with your Yahweh – he doesn't think big.

  • Senore_gusto

    That is funny – you will tear those to shreds.

    How?

    You will discredit the various atheist doctors who treated him on various occasions or you will discredit the pathology labs who tested his blood or what?

    The person in question was interviewed by the newspaper The Record in Perth and the editor prior to publishing this truth personally inspected the medical records to verify it.

    You have piqued my interest so I may one day follow this up and even meet the man myself.

    I must start keeping a list of names etc and other proofs just so I can substantiate it even though you will never believe regardless of the evidence.

    It ‘aint opinion or conjecture my friend.

    Why do you say “apparently”?

    What if I said the woman you think is you mum is apparently your real mum. You are relying on her word aren’t you? Baby photo’s can be doctored so I don’t trust them if you show them to me. DNA tests are not infallible and you are relying on some other human who may have mixed up the tests and you would never know to give you an affirmative – you wouldn’t really know unless you did the DNA test yourself but then this is based on assumptions. I could go on. But for now just trust the WORD of the person you call your mum.

    I am bringing to you a perfect case of an atheist doctor who experienced the supernatural. Science then and now still can not explain what happened. Swelling from a fatal condition does not disappear while you watch and all symptoms of such a condition does not disappear the same day. I see you have trouble tearing that to shreds.

    BTW, you do realise the Catholic Church INVITES atheist doctors to investigate ALL alleged miracles just so they CAN be ruled out. Do your self a favour and visit the Lourdes Medical Bureau one day and see the evidence yourself. – it is all there just for people like you. Go on tear it to shreds, but where will you be if you can’t?

    Even if the Thames parted, you still wouldn’t believe.

    My God is a personal God and so He gets a better result when it works on a personal level. Let me see the disciples met other people – on a personal level and they believed and to cut a long story short the rest is history.

    If you had a little understanding of the OT then you would see the big miracles worked only for very short time.

  • Gusto

    WRONG (if you are speaking on behalf of the Church).

    The Church declares a miracle has occurred ONLY where the following has occurred:

    * It is instantaneous

    * It is permanent

    * It had no medical intervention

    * It can't be explained by science.

    In effect the only other explanation is that it is no longer natural BUT supernatural!

  • Boko999

    I still don't see how disproving natural selection gets you to virgin births, talking snakes, and easter time god gobbling.

  • Mamasnookems

    People should be reading the first book of the bible, Genesis, that is when life started on earth. someone told me that Darwin said it was “just a theory, a not for sure thing” didn't he? That is what i heard after all this hype about evolution went out of control!

  • omvendt

    Darwinism and Catholicism are utterly irreconcilable.

  • Eric Volegelin

    Evolutionary Theory and Kant's Critique

    . . . .The theory of the descent of the species is fully developed [in the Critique of Judgment ], even including, as an explanation for the current fixity of the species, a theory of the former, now extinct, fertility of the productive force, such as Georges Cuvier was to advocate subsequently.

    Nineteenth-century theories of evolution, especially Darwin's, added factual details to Kant's theory and improved it by removing many objective difficulties, but they changed nothing in the basic framework. On the other hand, compared to Kant's theory, the theories of the nineteenth century actually represent a huge step backward on account of the decline of theoretical culture and the consequent naiveté with which relatively insignificant details are considered important and lauded as progress in treating the question, while the crucial speculative-theoretical basic questions are overlooked.

    Kant deals briefly but thoroughly with these crucial questions in a few sentences appended to the well-meaning consideration of the possibility of a real descent of species. He points out that if the radically immanent theory of evolution were accepted, researchers would have to ascribe to the universal mother, with her generative power, an expedient organization geared to all the creatures that have come forth from her and without which the appropriate forms of the animal and plant worlds would be impossible. “They have then only pushed the basis of explanation further back and cannot claim to have made the development of those two kingdoms independent of the prerequisite of ultimate causes. ” In this one sentence the idea of the inner law of evolution is carried to its conclusion—at the same time that its theoretical significance is blunted.

    The turn to the theory of evolution has the theoretical goal to explain the building principle [Baugesetz] of each species based on the preceding evolution of species. If this idea is followed to its logical conclusion, the law according to which species develop moves closer and closer to the beginning of the history of evolution, until the first life-form is endowed with the evolutionary tendency for the entire living world, and finally speculation pushes back beyond the first life-form into inorganic matter, from which the former spontaneously originated. The “explanatory” law that was intended to be immanent thus turns again into a transcendent one, into a law that “precedes” the evolutionary series of life. And the types of organisms, the species, in spite of their supposed historical descent from each other, nevertheless stand again side by side, inexplicable through each other since the conditions for the development of any one species cannot be found in the one that precedes it historically and generationally, but only in the law that stands outside the whole series of species.

    The attempt to “explain” the species leads to the unexpected result that the species once again stand side by side as fixed types, similar to the way Linnaeus saw them, even though in reality they may be related to one another through genesis.

    We have come to the end of our investigation of the transformation of the idea of the transcendence of evolution to that of immanence. Just as for the organic individual his structural law, the immanence of his being, could not be replaced by the preformist theory of the series, just as there the problem of infinity had to be resolved within the species in order to arrive at the finite concept of the individual life-form's formative drive, so in the theory of evolution the doctrine of the descent of species must be dissolved as the explanation of the individual species, so that the idea of the fixity of the species, of the immanent law of the species form, can be found again.

    The theoretical situation is only less transparent in evolutionary theory than in the infinite series of species. While in the latter we only had to trace the dissolution of the concept of series to arrive at the immanent concept of the organism, in evolutionary speculation we had to (1) investigate the transformation of evolutionary theory from the transcendent to the immanent idea, as it ran its course from Leibniz to Herder, Goethe, and Kant; and (2) see, behind the evolutionary theory's becoming immanent, the dissolution of its explanatory law all the way to the reappearance of the fixity of the species.

    Kant's argument that the theory of evolution merely shifts the real origin of the species back to the origin of evolution not only takes the theory of evolution to its logical conclusion but also destroys it as meaningless as far as its explanatory purpose is concerned. It does not explain what it was intended to explain, in fact, it explains just as little as Leibniz' principle of continuity or Herder's or Goethe's idea of morphological kinship.

    The kinship relationships of the living world are primary phenomena just as the life of the species and the life of the individual organism are primary phenomena, which one can see or not, but there is nothing about them that needs to be explained. The primary phenomenon of life becomes visible in a threefold way: in the living individual, in the species, and in the interconnectedness of the entire living world. It is impossible to use a part of this phenomenon to explain the same phenomenon in another of its manifestations.

    The life of the individual cannot be explained through the life of the species, as the theory of series has attempted to do; the life of the species cannot be explained by the totality of the phenomenon of life, as the theory of evolution attempts to do; and the totality of the phenomenon of life can most definitely not be explained through the laws of non-living nature. In the substantially genuine movement of the spirit, the theory of evolution has come to an end in the Critique of Judgment— although in the history of derivative theories on this issue, theories that move ever farther away from the center of the spirit, evolutionary theory did not flourish until the following century.

    Kant appended a note to his radical destruction of the explanatory value of any theory of evolution in which he conceded that the fact of bodily kinship was not impossible. It was not, he remarked, totally absurd and a priori impossible that, for example, certain water animals might gradually evolve into marsh animals and, after some further generations, into land animals. “However, experience gives no example of it; according to experience, all generation that we know is generatio homonyma. This is not merely univoca in contrast to the generation out of unorganized material, but it brings forth a product that is in its very organization like the one that produced it; and generatio heteronyma, so far as our empirical knowledge of nature extends, is found nowhere.” This sentence, written in 1790, still applies word for word today; biology has nothing to add to it.

  • jng

    From the first time a man made a fire from flint, there probably have been those who argued, as each new discovery was made, that it was proof that God did not exist. Should one propose that God did make the Universe, Multiverse or whatever, one has to concede that God must have had immense creative imagination, the power to implement it and that his mind covered a range somewhat wider than that of the average genius. How God did it, therefore, and the plans to develop it from his original idea, are areas we can chisel at but are not likely to understand, even if The Creator were to produce a few hundred thousand volume idiots guide on it for our benefit. The inventor of fire was, probably, cleverer than most of us, yet the best mathematics teacher in the world would be hard pushed to explain quantum mechanics to him. Science, therefore, is irrelevant to any attempted proof that God does not exist. What we do know, is that atheism can never be a firmly based philosophy as it is not in the nature of things to prove that a spiritual being outside of the material world does not exist. However, should God The Creator exist, such intellect as we have might give us indications of this. This leads to two questions. Firstly, what has a modern Theory of Evolution to do with whether or not God exists? And, do some of us have an emotional bloc to the idea of the existence of God which manifests itself in a compulsion to prove that He does not?

  • Ggreg

    70,000 people simultaneously witnessing the Sun move around the sky and fall to earth (on cue) in Fatima in 1917, (October 13th), some of them atheists, sceptics and non believers who had gone there to debunk it (people like you).

    Their clothes and the ground they stood on being soaking wet and miraculously drying within a few minutes. The heat required to evaporate that much water that quickly should have killed all of them. The specific heat capacity of water is very large, as is the latent heat of vaporization. Do the math and work out what the temperature would need to be for that to happen scientifically. Hotter than the hottest sauna in the world. Much hotter than Death Valley. In Portugal in October?

    Then you have all of that written up in a secular newspaper the next day. That is evidence as much as the Magna Carta is evidence.

    Obviously the alternative is that 70,000 people lied or were hoodwinked and that the Catholic Church brainwashed them into thinking it was really raining that much or that their clothes were really dry. But if the Catholic Church is THAT powerful, then why not just part the Thames and have 70,000 brainwashed Londoners thrown Hitchens and Dawkins off Tower Bridge into the mud before it washes back over them.

    The trouble with people like you is that you cannot objectively look at the evidence because to believe in God would require you to make all manner of lifestyle changes and feel guilt for all manner of behaviours that you've learned to love.

    So even with Fatima's Miracle of the Sun you'll find some ridiculous hand-waving way of explaining it away. The Catholic Church has LONG told us that people have free will and clearly God has to respect that and work miracles that fools like you can find some crazy way to ignore since otherwise your will would be forced.

  • http://lxoa.wordpress.com Shane

    No

  • Ron

    To fully understand and accept evolution as a Christian, particulalry through the mechanism of natural selection, you have to limit God to creating the conditions for evolution and then letting it take its course. This is OK at the moment because scientist's haven't yet discovered how single-celled organisms began on earth. However, they are not far off this discovery, and at present there are several plausible mechanisms. Once this gap is filled where does that then leave God?! The other problem with the theory of Evolution for the Christian is that the theory clearly states, through implication, that intelligent life was NOT a certainty. The Catholic Church skirts around the issue by stating that a soul was “implanted” later on. But here again one must ask how the theory and the theology make sense. The Church has learnt from its lessons with Gallileo but clearly understands why evolution is a real issue. For me these dilemma's turned me away from my faith.

  • KiwiNZ1

     “The great weakness of neo-Darwinists is to explain convincingly why the
    scientific laws of our universe are so finely-tuned as to produce the
    inevitability of man.”

    No that is not true. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection makes no comment on abiogenesis. The fine tuning argument is a cosmological matter, not an evolutionary one.

    The greatest weakness of neo-Dawinists (note, not the theory, but the scientists), is how they have failed to communicate the elegance and power of the theory to a public befuddled by a variety of religions.