Philosophy of Evolution: Belief Problem

Theology and Ideology


Theology and Ideology

What influence does the Bible have in reference to ideology? The theory of evolution does not, in all probability and in itself, run counter to Christian principles or belief, or to the scriptural account in the Book of Genesis, but there are some scientists and philosophers who are atheistic or irreligious.50 A number of early Christian writers maintained that creation was a single act of God at the beginning of the world. All further development came through natural agencies. In the words of St. Augustine, the Bible intends to show, not how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven.51 However, for those who read Genesis literally and believe God created the world along with all creatures big and small in just six days, reconciliation of faith and Darwinism is impossible.52 There was a Biblical Fundamentalism, called Traditionalism, rejected as heretical by the Catholic Church.53 This Traditionalism was fostered by Lamennais (1752-1854), who held that the only means of attaining truth with security is authority, which is in divine revelation.

How do Roman offices of the Catholic Church see ideology and evolution? The illustrative case is the Monitum (Warning) of the Holy Office (now the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) that was issued in 1962 about the work of Father Teilhard de Chardin. Ideology was not the cause of the warning. The Holy Office wanted to avoid the influx of evolutionary ideology into Catholic theology, so the warning was to avoid an effect.54

What is Fundamentalism, and is it an ideology? The Fundamentalists (as promoters of Creationism, although that term is very ambiguous) try to demonstrate that the arguments of the Evolutionism are false, while they seek to use the Bible, interpreted in the literal sense to prove the truth about the origins of the world and of all living things.55 This appears to be the Fixist position, although the motive for belief is ideological. These critics of evolutionary biology make theological pronouncements in the area of science, and often confuse biology with philosophy.56 These Fundamentalists are found among both Protestants and Catholics, mainly in the United States, but also in Europe. However, the Catholic scholarly opinion today is against every form of Fundamentalism, and the reason is that every type of research, scientific or theological, ought to respect the rules proper to its own field of study.57

What is Intelligent Design? Intelligent Design is an ideological58 theory which holds that natural processes are so complex and ingenious that they must have been created by an intelligent supernatural being.59 Some proponents of intelligent design, who deny evolution like the Creationists, hold that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact, such as fish with fins and birds with feathers.60 Most proponents of intelligent design hold that evolution did occur, but by the intelligent design of an intelligent supernatural creator.61 The proponents of Intelligent Design are also careful not to bring the word "God" into the discussion, but prefer to use the language of science; this distinguishes the Intelligent Design proponents from the Creationists, who use the term God.62 This avoidance of the term "God" helps them avoid the legal and political pitfalls of teaching Creationism, and is also a key to the historical beginning of Intelligent Design. When the Christian Fundamentalists who denied evolution were brought to the Supreme Court in the United States in 1987, the dissenting opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia. Scalia wrote, Christian Fundamentalists "are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools."63 That line of argument, an emphasis on weakness and gaps in evolution, is at the heart of the Intelligent Design movement, which has as its motto, "Teach the Controversy." Is the Intelligent Design movement successful? The polls indicate that approximately 45% of Americans believe there is no reconciling Bible faith with Darwinism, so it is no wonder that almost one third of 1,050 teachers who responded to a National Science Teachers Association online survey in March (2005) said they had felt pressured by parents and students to include lessons on Intelligent Design, Creationism, or other non-scientific alternatives to evolution in their science classes; 30% noted that they felt pressured to omit evolution or evolution related topics from their curriculum.64

Are there serious arguments in favor of Intelligent Design? The central and appealing idea of Intelligent Design is that living things are simply too exquisitely complex to have evolved by chance mutations and natural selection, for example the human eye and the astounding ability of blood to clot.65 Michael Behe, Lehigh University biologist, Discovery Institute Senior Fellow, and author of the 1996 book, Darwin’s Black Box, points to the fact of the ingenious structures of living organisms, like the eye and the clotting of blood.66 Another argument is the focused on the missing pieces in the fossil record, particularly the Cambrian Period, when there was an explosion of novel species. A third argument is from mathematical probability.67 William Dembski, mathematician, philosopher, and theologian, is heading a new center for Intelligent Design at Southern Baptist Seminary. Dembski uses mathematical probability to try to show that chance mutations and natural selection cannot account for nature’s complexity.

What is a reasonable critique of Intelligent Design? Facchini suggests at least four serious problems with the theory of Intelligent Design.68 First, it is a methodological fallacy to critique the scientific model by the religious model, while still pretending to do science. Second, Intelligent Design forms species, but mutations to biological structures cannot by themselves explain everything since environmental changes must also occur. Third, subsequently Intelligent Design introduces a greater cause (God) than evolution to explain natural phenomena, and this cause is external to nature and corrective to nature. Fourth, with the theory of Intelligent Design it is difficult or impossible to explain extinction and lineages of dangerous genetic mutations. Brother Benignus adds a caution. Even if there is a design in nature, this does not prove a designer, if the philosophers for Intelligent Design only admit "immanent" finality in nature, and not "transcendent" finality.69 The argument can be proposed as follows. Finality is a cause. Every goal or end is subsequent to what causes it. If the goal or end is "only" in time, then the goal would not exist during the process, so that the goal would not exist until the future. But a cause (even a final cause) must exist prior to its effect, or it is not a cause. Therefore, the intrinsic finality of things needs a cause outside of time, that is, timeless. But to be timeless is to transcend nature, for nature is in time, so what is outside of time is transcendent. This transcendent cause is demanded as the First Cause and Ordainer as the one ground or cause of creation, as Aquinas proves in the fourth way.70

Author: John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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