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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

  • Anthony

    God exists outside time and creates a material universe which must by its nature begin to exist within time. God is not affected by time and thus to Him all points in time are the same. God's creation of the universe therefore takes place at all points within the time of the universe. If that were not the case then the universe would cease to exist.

    God's creation therefore appears to us within the universe as a continuous creation, and indeed it is, at all levels and in all dimensions. The physical evolution of man is a major example of God's continuous creation over a great timescale, and on a lesser timescale the perpetuation of man through the generations is also an example of continuous creation.

    We observe God's continuous creation taking place through secondary material causes. Just as on one timescale pregnancy gives rise to offspring, so too on another timescale does one species give rise to another. Just as on one level sowing seeds produces crops, so too on another level does coalescing spacedust produce a star.

  • Bgfraser58

    I am not an atheist, theist, deist or Catholic but have spent many years in Christian worship. It seems to me that Stratford and Clive are debating within a closed system, namely, the assumption that God exists. But my extensive discussions and readings outside of religion convince me that people would rather have Stratford and Clive prove the existence of God. They really don't care a hoot for debates such as Darwinis:Is it a threat….. George Fraser

  • Mephistophiles

    Of course it is a threat to Catholic faith, but you'll go through mental contortions to convince yourself otherwise.

  • Anthony

    The major drawback for neo-darwinian material evolutionists is not a lack of genetic information; that will come with more scientific research. Their main problem that they need to explain a universe whose scientific laws are fine tuned for human life. They try to do so by claiming that there is an infinity of universes spontaneously and naturally occurring from within a “multiverse”. Some are too small and collapse within themselves or are too large and dissipate before mattrer can form, whereas others reach stability but contain different scientific laws or the same laws in different permutations. However, very occasionally there pops up at random from this multiverse a universe such as ours which contains our precise scientific laws and which leads naturally to the formation of mineral rich planets and the development of sentient life.

    Without this hypothetical “muliverse” scenario, neo-darwinists are at a loss to explain why our universe is so fined-tuned to the development of human life. Not surpisingly, there is as yet no evidence of a mutliverse.

  • Psiloiordinary

    Lots of christians accept the evidence for evolution. Lots of biologists are christians and accept the evidence for evolution.

    Making claims that evolution can't account for the information in the DNA is a creationist canard that is an empty assertion. Science knows of several ways that information is generated.

    Making such scientifically empty claims without any attempt to even check if they have any backing in science is perhaps one reason why “The Church is no longer taken seriously because many people regard Christianity as the intellectual equivalent of a fairy tale.”

    This way can only lead to polarisation.

  • Mark H

    Darwinism isn't a threat to the faith, it is incompatible with the faith. Death came through one man..Endless arguments among ourselves will never resolve this. The Magisterium needs to produce something authoritative. Darwinism is just another 'Creation myth'.

  • Mephistophiles

    Therefore God exists.

  • Mephistophiles

    The Magisterium needs to produce something authoritative?…

    Well they've had 2000 years to do that, and after all, is that God's job? Reason, bolstered with empirical evidence, is winning.

  • Mephistophiles

    You'll have to point out the Bible verses that point all that out…I must have missed them.

  • Anthony

    If there is indeed only one universe – ours – then the scientific laws peculiar to our universe are the only ones in existence. Neo-darwinian evolution which depends on those laws becomes merely a scientific explanation of the physical origin of man. It can no longer call itself random because it relies on pre-existing laws which naturally lead to sentient life.

  • Anthony

    “Reason, bolstered with empirical evidence, is winning.”

    Where is the empirical evidence that neo-darwinian evolution is random?

  • Mephistophiles

    Are you implying that your Invisible Man, as opposed to the 6000 or so other invisible men, has a direct influence on what you call Neo-Darwinian evolution?

    Funny thing about science, it's big enough to say it doesn't have all the answers. The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. One thing we can say with as much confidence as we can say there aren't Fairies at the bottom of our gardens is that your Magic Man didn't do it.

  • Anthony

    “The evidence for evolution is overwhelming. “

    I agree, just as the evidence for geological formation is overwhelming. They are both scientific processes. They both occur in our universe – the only one for whose existence we have evidence. They are the natural product of its scientific laws.

    To assert that biological evolution and geological formation are random occurrences is grossly mistaken. They are the inevitable consequences of the precise physical laws of our universe. They are inevitable because they have occurred naturally, and both we and our planet are here as testament to that fact.

    If evolution is inevitable within our universe, what caused it to be so, or more precisely, why are the universal laws so finely tuned as to make sentient life inevitable? Without reverting back to the deeply flawed “multiverse” concept, that is a question that no neo-Darwinist is able to answer.

  • Anthony

    If you are unaware that God the Creator is an eternal spirit, existing outside of time and space, you can't have read your Bible properly.

  • Mephistophiles

    I'm not sure what your point is here. I have never claimed that biological evolution or geological formation are at all random, and I don't know many scientists who would say that they are. The Laws are so finely tuned as to make sentient life inevitable because if they weren't we wouldn't be here – I'm not sure how we can assume the god of the trinity made it that way with zero evidence though – you'll have to offer up something better than a book written by rock-throwing simpletons as evidence.

  • Mephistophiles

    Well anybody who did actually read the bible properly would be able to see it for the evil nonsense that it is.

  • Fidelioque

    It is all really boring. Darwin is not the author of evolution but one of many theories we do not hear about. Huxley liked his idea of `natural selection` since it did not involve atheists in too much thinking and they could abuse their intelligence by talking about fairies and magic men. You can believe in evolution but not `natural selection` which is a total evasion of any rational principle. Evolution is always advancing and we look to this advancement. Why? Should it not also go back. after all it is `natural selection` and with no intellgience to guide it it can go alll over the place. Yet atheists are fhe first to quote the firm and immutable laws of science as though they had just discovered discovered them. The fact is we are always looking for an explanation of why things are. Wht caused them to be? And we always come upon the conclusion that nothing can explain itself. Everything causes everything else but there is no reason why any should exist. This is where atheistic babble comes in telling us that if you say there is an uncaused cause, something that explains its own existence which is the primary cause of everything you must be talking about fairies, magic men. It is of course sheer nonsense. It is quite logical to say that there is an intelligence behind being. Yet `natural selection` explains very little. A bacterium was found on a rock dating 3.6 billion years old. We are talking about a living creature with an celular structiure. A cell contains atoms, neutrons, electrons, etc. Natural selection has failed to explain this evolution of life, even at the inanimate to animate stage. Put a pen in your hands and say it is solid. Phycisists will tell you this is not true, it is mostly emptiness about 99.9 per cent. It solidness comes from atoms constantly moving at speeds approaching the speed of light 86,000 miles per senond. Despite there dreary claims athiests actually know as much about anyting as theists. .

  • Mephistophiles

    It's difficult to know where to start with your rather long paragraph because it doesn't seem to have any clear narrative. But I'll do my best.

    “Evolution is always advancing and we look to this advancement. Why? Should it not also go back. after all it is `natural selection` and with no intellgience (sic) to guide it it can go alll over the place.”

    That statement alone demonstrates your sheer ignorance about evolution. If you're going to form an opinion about evolution by natural selection I suggest you read some literature on it.

    By the way, the speed of light is 186,000 miles per second, not 86000.

  • Anthony

    I'm glad that we agree that man is the inevitable product of the universe, and not merely a chance occurrence. Furthermore there is no evidence that the formation of universe itself is a natural occurrence. With no scientific information in either direction, it is equally likely that the universe could have been created deliberately as have occurred naturally, since those are the only two possibilities.

    What special knowledge are neo-Darwinists in possession of which enables them to assert with confidence that a created origin of the universe is so much less likely than a natural origin as to be almost impossible? If the absence of a sign of a creator is matched by an equal lack of evidence of a natural cause, why do neo-Darwinists have an a priori disinclination towards the notion of a creator?

  • Mephistophiles

    Well for a start, we don't agree that man is an inevitable product of the universe – life, maybe, but not man. That's just hubris. We're just lucky that evolution brought us here, shaped by environmental variables.

    You seem to be confusing two issues – origins of the universe are an entirely separate subject to evolution, so you need to be more clear about your argument. You wouldn't find a “neo-darwinist” – or atheist, for that matter, who would say with 100% certainty that the universe wasn't created by a non-interventionist entity, as opposed to a natural first cause, as we just do not know. The evidence at the time of the Big Bang, and before, just isn't there. We do know quite a lot about what happened within seconds of that event though, but I digress – Evolution and origins of the universe are two separate subjects.

    There is no evidence of a deistic creator, although without the evidence to catagorically state how the universe began, it cannot be dismissed – even Dawkins would concede that point (and has). There is also no evidence of your theistic god. Here, we can say with absolute certainty that he does not exist. The only evidence there is can be torn apart with simple reason. The more we learn about how the world works, the more ridiculous the bible becomes.

  • Anthony

    “Well for a start, we don't agree that man is an inevitable product of the universe – life, maybe, but not man. That's just hubris. We're just lucky that evolution brought us here, shaped by environmental variables.”

    You yourself said earlier that sentient life is inevitable. Is man not sentient life?

    What do you mean by environmental variables? All such “variables” are the inevitable outcomes of universal laws. Events can only vary by following such laws. Without such laws they cannot become “variables”.

    The formation of massive stars, supernovae and the formation of mineral rich planets thereof, the particular development of planetary geology, the development of life and its evolution to sentient life in the form of man, are all inevitable in that they all follow strict finely-tuned universal laws. Natural selection itself is a universal law and has led inevitably to the development of man.

    To assert that there is an element of fortune in the bilogical development of man is profoundly misleading because it assumes a malfunctioning of universal laws.

  • Anthony

    “Evolution and origins of the universe are two separate subjects.”

    On the contrary they are inexorably linked. The evolution of sentient life (i.e. man) is the inevitable outcome of universal laws. Man is an inevitable product of the universe. The question of whether the existence of man is random or intended depends not on evolution but on whether the universe itself is a random occurrence or not. If the universe is an intended creation, then the evolution of man by virtue of its inevitability, is also intended.

  • Anthony

    “There is also no evidence of your theistic god. Here, we can say with absolute certainty that he does not exist. The only evidence there is can be torn apart with simple reason. The more we learn about how the world works, the more ridiculous the bible becomes.”

    I agree with you that a literal interpretation of the Old Testament, particularly with regard to creation, is in conflict with scientific discovery. That is why I do not subscribe to such a literal creationist view. No less than 1700 years ago St. Augustine in his “Literal Meaning of Genesis” warned that Christians bring the scorn of unbelievers upon themselves and their faith when they use Scripture to make statements which are plainly at odds with the discoveries of science.

  • Mephistophiles

    “You yourself said earlier that sentient life is inevitable. Is man not sentient life?”

    That's so disingenuous as to barely warrant a retort. There's more sentient life on the planet that just human life. We're lucky to be here because of the path out evolutionary ancestors took.

    As regards “variables” (probably a poor choice of word on my part, but still relevent – maybe “influences” would have been better) a number of outside influences have an affect on evolution, such as weather, natural disaster, continental drift, to name but three. Now, I agree that these things are not random events – they are inevitable. Inevitable isn't the same as pre-determined by an intelligent influence, which I think is the crux of your argument.

  • Mephistophiles

    No matter how many times you say it, it simply isnt true. Origins of Universe and Evolution are seperate subjects and to merge them is to avoid the argument.

    I do, however, think I know where you're coming from. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think that you believe that nothing is random; that there is no such thing as chaos; that every event is an effect and a cause and that the Universal Laws we find ourselves governed by are leading us on an inevitable path. That every thought we have that is fired by our synapses is the inevitable consequence of every outside influence and the signals from every cell in our body (which in turn are subject to inevitable forces). In short – no randomness, no chaos, only inevitability.

    I agree. The universe began, and it is on a journey of inevitability dictated by massively complex mathematics. (It's something I've been thinking about a lot recently – that if we had the mathematical power every event in the future could be worked out, but to work out the spin of every atom(and beyond) and its symbiotic effect would be – realistically – impossible. Mathematically, yes, and without any metaphysical nonsense).

    Inevitable is not the same as pre-determined, however. You think that an interventionist entity started the process (and seem to have picked a particular One). I am certain that God, or Thor, or Mithra has not.

  • Anthony

    “Inevitable isn't the same as pre-determined by an intelligent influence, which I think is the crux of your argument.”

    A very interesting point. Several years ago the ex Vatican astronomer, Fr.George Coyne SJ stated that God himself, having created the universe, did not know precisely what form sentient life would evolve into. This however is contrary to Church teaching because it presupposes a Creator who is subjected to time. Catholic teaching, based on the twin pillars of Scripture and Tradition, states that God exists outside of space and time, which means that to him all points of the history of the universe are the same. Thus the same divine thought that created the universe also created man.

  • Anthony

    “Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think that you believe that nothing is random; that there is no such thing as chaos; that every event is an effect and a cause and that the Universal Laws we find ourselves governed by are leading us on an inevitable path. That every thought we have that is fired by our synapses is the inevitable consequence of every outside influence and the signals from every cell in our body (which in turn are subject to inevitable forces). In short – no randomness, no chaos, only inevitability.”

    Inevitability exists only insofar as universal laws are completetly predominant. Universal laws were totally predominant until the arrival of man but, after man came onto the scene, they no longer completely predominate.

    Man's behaviour is not solely determined by the action of the senses upon the material tissue of the brain. Man has free choice and he can choose to reject such material impulses. Hence a man can fast even though every physical sense is urging him to eat, he can remain celibate when every sense is urging him to mate, he can show mercy when every urge is to kill and he can sacrifice himself when every urge is to survive.

    The ability of man to transcend the unavoidable demands of his material condition means that his will is not subjected to the inevitability of universal laws. For this first time in a universe when physical laws completely predominate, there is an area where they no longer totally predominate which is in the will or mind of man.

    The Church teaches that God made man in his image and likeness. This makes sense. Just as God who, as Creator of the laws of the universe, transcends those laws, so too does man, made in God's image, also transcend them.

  • Anthony

    Correction

    “For this first time in a universe when physical laws completely predominate” should read “For the first time in a universe where physical laws completely predominate”

  • Mephistophiles

    If god is omiscient, omnipresent and omnipotent there cannot be free will. This is clearly totally contradictory. I do not believe in free will in either a theological or material sense. But let's concentrate on “god-given” free will. God apparently knows everything; everything that has ever gone and everything that ever will be. He's omnipresent and omnipotent – he can do anything he wants and is there to see it at all times. Given that he is all these things it is clear that our destiny is pre-determined (assuming god), which is anathema to free will.

    Also, even if it was true that man had free will he still wouldn't be able to “transcend the unavoidable demands of his material condition”. If a man fasts too long, he dies. If a man remains celibate, his genes are not propagated. Physical laws still totally prodominate.

  • Anthony

    “God apparently knows everything; everything that has ever gone and everything that ever will be. He's omnipresent and omnipotent – he can do anything he wants and is there to see it at all times. Given that he is all these things it is clear that our destiny is pre-determined (assuming god), which is anathema to free will.”

    Just because God knows what we will do does not mean that he will force us to do it. God wants man to love him and the nature of love is that it cannot be enforced. A love that is enforced is worthless. Genuine love can only be given freely and God has given man the freedom to choose to love him. God has given man the freedom either to love God or not.

    God sees all points of human time simultaneously, past, present and future. He can see the future of each individual and whether that individual has chosen to love God or not. The decision to love God is what brings salvation.

    Our destiny is foreknown by God but it is not pre-ordained. There is no predestination. God would like all men to be saved. He wants all men to freely choose to love him. Just because some choose not to, and just because God knows who they are in advance, does not mean that God is cruel by having failed to warn them. He warns them every day through his Church, and occasional miracles and apparitions, but they pay no heed.

  • Stu

    The only threat is if Catholics believe in them. Otherwise the World is the world it won't change. What needs to happen is Catholics living by example that says, God is Here! Amen. What Do I mean? Living Proof that God is indeed in Catholics, in Power and Spirit.

    Amen.

  • Mephistophiles

    “Just because God knows what we will do does not mean that he will force us to do it.”

    He doesn't just know what we will do, he created the situation. God is Creator; he's also omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. God created everything – that includes the future. This can only mean, in God's model, we're slaves to our destiny. We were born to be good, or evil, or otherwise – no free will there!

    “God sees all points of human time simultaneously, past, present and future.”

    …and created time, along with everything else, therefore created our future.

    “He can see the future of each individual and whether that individual has chosen to love God or not. The decision to love God is what brings salvation.”

    ..see previous really. If god created everything, including time, and he can see the future of each individual then there's no escaping the fact that there is no free will in that model.

    “He warns them every day through his Church, and occasional miracles and apparitions, but they pay no heed.”

    Which Church? There is, apparently, 38000 denominations of christianity alone, not to mention other religions. The best you can say about that is he doesn't seem to be getting his message across particularly well.

    One last thing – please give me a credible example of any miracle or apparition that cannot be explained by science.

    If this is riddled with spelling mistakes and poor grammar, forgive me, i'm very tired.

  • Anthony

    “please give me a credible example of any miracle or apparition that cannot be explained by science.”

    All miracles and apparitions are explainable by science. It's just that the human race is still a long way from discovering that science. Universal laws are the laws of the universe that we know of; they are not all the laws in existence. Perhaps they're just the tip of the iceberg.

  • Mephistophiles

    If miracles and apparitions are explainable by science, they aren't miracles and apparitions. A miracle, by definition, is an event that breaks the laws of nature. Much the same can be said of an apparition. That aside, you didn't give me an example of any miracle or apparition that could not be explained by science, so your “long way from discovering that science” point is invalid.

    So, can you give me a credible example of any miracle or apparition that cannot be explained by science?

  • Anthony

    “So, can you give me a credible example of any miracle or apparition that cannot be explained by science?”

    What you mean, of course, is an example of a miracle or apparition which cannot be explained by our current scientific knowledge. And the answer is all of them. All miracles and apparitions cannot be explained by our current scientific knowledge.

    To the Romans the internet would have been a miracle. Just imagine what we'll learn in another 2000 years (if we're still here). Much of it no doubt will be what we consider now to be miraculous.

  • Anthony

    “A miracle, by definition, is an event that breaks the laws of nature.”

    Not quite correct. A miracle is an event that breaks the “currently known” laws of nature.

  • Mephistophiles

    That's simply untrue – a dictionary would clear that up. But I'll be generous for one minute and give you your definition. Here you have a problem – if a miracle is an event that breaks the currently known laws of nature, then it is purely a human concept, therefore no need for god. Can you see how “god” gets weaker and weaker the more we know about the way the world works?

  • Mephistophiles

    What I mean, is an example of the “miracle or apparition” that you alluded to and as yet has failed to provide.

    “To the Romans the internet would have been a miracle. Just imagine what we'll learn in another 2000 years (if we're still here). Much of it no doubt will be what we consider now to be miraculous.”

    And this is exactly my point – what some may think of as miracles today, simply are not. Miracles, especially to Catholics, are something metaphysical – something god-given. Something demonstrating that there is a god. Yet science will always explain them away.

    As Arthur C Clarke said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” If we don't understand it, we call it god.

    By the way, your “Romans” example was a poor one – they would have thought Minerva did it, or maybe Mercury…or maybe one of the other Roman Gods.

    One last time – can you give me a credible example of any miracle or apparition that cannot be explained by science?

  • Anthony

    I have answered your question. I repeat – every single recorded miracle and apparition can be explained by science but not by our primitive science. To perform them in a manner that we humans can perceive them, God has manipulated scientific laws that we are still unaware of.

    And if you believe that miracles and apparitions do not come from God, but naturally from some as yet undiscovered science, then listen to the messages of Our Lady of Fatima.

  • Mephistophiles

    …which neatly brings me right back to one of my first posts on here, about having to go through mental contortions to believe what you believe. I'm never going to convince you – all I can ask is you read your bible a bit harder, and maybe more with an open mind.

    http://www.evilbible.com/
    http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com/

    Good luck!

  • Clive Copus

    Thanks for commenting.

    You're right that many Christians believe that there is plenty of evidence for evolution. That is why I think it is so important for them to be made aware of the huge problems Darwinism has in dealing with biological information.

    You say that science knows of several ways by which information is generated. As far as I am aware, it knows of only one way by which specific, complex and functional information – that is, the type of information found in the genetic code – is generated: namely, by intelligent agency. If you know of another, you should let the world in on the secret, because it would constitute the most important scientific discovery of the century.

  • Clive Copus

    Thanks for your comment.

    I agree that non-Christians (at least, those who care about these things) are more interested in whether or not there are sound, rational grounds for believing in God than what the Catholic Church thinks about Darwin. It is for that reason, however, that the Church should be rejecting the Darwinian version of our origins and highlighting instead the clear scientific evidence for our having been designed. The latter approach is so effective precisely because it does not simply assume the existence of God; rather, the existence of an all-powerful Creator is something that we can infer from the evidence.

  • Anonymous

    Neo-Darwinian evolution is not science. Beneficial mutations just simply don't happen. Why all of the Catholic lemmings?

  • Mephistophiles

    Well argued.

  • Anthony

    “Neo-Darwinian evolution is not science.”

    What processes are involved in neo-Darwinian evolution if they are not scientific?

  • Anthony

    On the contrary, the notion of God gets stronger and stronger because the more we learn, the more we realise how little we know. In the 19th century we thought we knew everything there is to know about science, and discounted the notion of God. That's where your atheism comes from. Now we realise how pathetically little we know about science, so much so that the realisation is dawning that scientific knowledge could be infinite.

  • Anthony

    We cannot discount the future scientific discovery of genetic information. We cannot say that it will never be found because if it is found then the claim of intelligent design would be undermined. It is a great risk to base ones belief in intelligent design upon the likelihood that there will be no further scientific discovery.

    The current lack of genetic information is not the Achilles' heel of neo-Darwinism. The biological evolution of man is an inevitable outcome of the scientific laws of our universe, since all physical events are subject to these laws and would not have occurred otherwise.

    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. Some invent a “multiverse” hypothesis while others, aware of the nonsense of such a proposal, simply plead ignorance and accept the universe and its laws as they stand, arguing defensively that there is still no evidence of a Creator.

    It is ironic that neo-Darwinists resort to ignorance to justify their lack of belief in a Creator. They don't have a clue about what caused our man-friendly universe but, perversely, they claim to know what did not.

  • Johnmckeating

    Anthony,
    You are an ambarrassment to modern educated Man.

    You need to join the real world and not believe the bronze and iron age creation myths.

    There have been over 4000 gods during our recent history on planet Earth (I wonder what the total of all the gods are in the Universe. There are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy with another 100 million or more galaxys ).

    Maybe thats why Jesus hasnt been back yet. ( 33 years x no of intelligent life forms in universe )

  • Anthony

    God's continuous creation of the universe does not preclude the evolution of sentient life in other star systems. However, man was willed by God, and the development of man is an inevitable consequence of the finely-tuned laws that God built into the universe when he created it.

    Whether those laws resulted in the development of other sentient species across the cosmos only God knows, but we can be sure that if they exist they were willed by God just as we were willed.

  • Anthony

    Even if intelligent design were true – that is, if no scientific discovery in the future shows it to be false – one could reasonably assume, given the vastness of the cosmos, that highly intelligent aliens implanted the DNA information into our hominid ancestors. For the objectively-minded this would seem more likely than inferring the existence of an all-powerful Creator.