Philosophy of Evolution: Belief Problem

Response to Ideology


Response to Ideology

Up to now, ideology has been dealt with as a problem. How can an adequate response be made to ideology? This section will consider six points. First, distinguish scientific truth from philosophic and religious truth. Second, avoid fragmentation. Third, find truth in science. Fourth, find truth in philosophy. Fifth, find truth in theology. Sixth, allow philosophy to be the link between science and theology.

First, empirical science, philosophy and theology ought to be considered separately in the initial search for truth. Every science is limited to its own sector of reality.71 Maritain believes such a differentiation of philosophy and science is not just due to a historical circumstance, but corresponds to a necessary law of the growth of speculative thought.72 Biology has its own proper object, and Maritain gives the example of his teacher, Driesch, who moved from biology into philosophy. Nevertheless, Maritain notes that "this union of two ‘formalities’ in the same thinking ‘subject’ should not make us forget their distinction, a distinction of fundamental importance for the interests of philosophy as well as for those of science."73 This distinction ought to be preserved between science and religion. However, it is important not to go too far. For example, Stephen Jay Gould speaks of the principle of non-overlapping magisteria, according to which "each subject has a legitimate magisterium, or domain of teaching authority, and these magisteria do not overlap."74 However, this type of thinking ignores the fact that the material object of several disciplines may be the same, as Maritain noted with biology an the philosophy of nature, and also that a doctrine of "double truth" is in conflict with the principle of contradiction.75 Further, Gould is in danger of promoting fragmentation.

Second, fragmentation is problem. Specialization is the sciences, much more the proposition of Gould for two separate kinds of truth, brings the risk of fragmentation.76 Historically this fragmentation between science and philosophy has been at the root of a number of celebrated problems. One of these was the thirteenth century debate between the philosophers and theologians about the eternity of the world, which can even be considered an analogous debate between the evolutionists and their adversaries today.77 Another case is that of Galileo, relevant to the rapport between science and theology. Galileo was in error to maintain a hypothesis as proved, mixing science and philosophy. The theologians opposed to Galileo were in error by perceiving natural science inside the ambit of theology.78 Today, even departments in the same university are separated by the necessary particular methods and terminology proper to the distinct empirical sciences. Communication becomes very limited. Other negative effects soon become evident. There is a superabundance of data, but little or no unitary vision. This problem was addressed by Pope John Paul II in the Encyclical Letter Fides et Ratio, which feared that the phenomenon of fragmentation of knowledge would lead to the eventual fragmentation of man himself. It was addressed again by Pope John Paul II in his Discourse to the Symposium: Christian Faith and Evolution (26 April 1985), in which the pope objects that in the popular media, science concludes with some philosophic opinions as if philosophy flows from science.79

Third, find truth in science. Weisheipl urges following the scientific optimism of Aristotle, and not abandon hope in man’s speculative power.80 Like the ancients, be appreciative of the dignity of scientific knowledge. By careful research and analysis, search for the causes of reality. Realize that hypotheses are necessary, but they are not to be confused with genuine science and are not the ultimate goal of science, but rather the means to that goal.81 Acknowledge with Aristotle that not all knowledge can be "scientific," that is, obtained by rigorous demonstration, for then there would be no beginning of science. Dialogue makes for a more complete synthetic view, but the danger of this method is the reduction of some sciences to another, or syncretism that does not honor the objectivity and rigor of science.82

Fourth, find truth in philosophy. Philosophy is the great unifier of wisdom.83 The possibility of this unity of wisdom is one of the great convictions of the popes, although it may appear that the modern popes are more concerned with social justice than Neo-Scholasticism.84 Pope John Paul II considered the unification of wisdom "one of the duties of Christian thought to make a Christian Age in the next millennium (the 21st century)."85 The unification of wisdom is possible because truth and reality are one.86 Even if there are different orders of truth and knowledge,87 unity is always possible.88 On the one hand, the doctrine of double truth is inadmissible, because of the principle of contradiction.89 On the other hand, each order of truth has its limits, and the various orders of truth need to aid each other.90 Reason can attain natural truth, aided by faith.91 Reason can aid faith.92

Fifth, find truth in theology. Faith perfects reason, which can be limited due to confusion between sense knowledge and reason itself.93 In particular, faith can prevent some philosophic errors.94 These contemporary errors involve Dogmatic Naturalism, which denies the possibility of divine revelation, Secularism, which espouses a natural humanitarian religion, and Modernism, which denies that man’s reason can know revealed truths.95 As opposed to these views, St. Thomas affirms that man’s knowledge begins with his senses, so that man has no "direct" experience of purely spiritual and immaterial things; but man can know immaterial things by reasoning.96 Theology and faith itself are rational, given its premises, that man’s reason is limited, and that man should have an easy way to attain his destiny, so as reasonable, theology is not, of itself, ideological.97 There is a primacy of theology, over the speculative sciences by reason of the matter considered and the certitude obtained, and over the practical sciences because theology is ordered to the ultimate goal, eternal beatitude.98 Then, is philosophy truly subordinated to theology? The answer is negative, first, because, without philosophy, theology would end as Fundametalism, and secondly, an inferior science does not have principles immediately per se known, but philosophy has such principles.99

Sixth, allow philosophy to be the link between science and theology. Just as there is due distinction and diversity of method between empirical science, philosophy and theology, there must be an ultimate link and "integration" between these for the benefit of each and all.100 Fragmented wisdom must be unified in an interdisciplinary approach, which promotes contact between different disciplines and implies interaction.101 This interdisciplinary method is not just multidisciplinary, which juxtaposes information without interaction, nor is it just pluridisciplinary, when the juxtaposed sciences are more or less internal to the same area of wisdom. There should be an attempt at a synthesis of scientific evolution with a philosophy of life which is both consonant with the known facts and agreeable to sound Judeo-Christian philosophy.102 The exercise of interdisciplinary dialogue allows an exercise of philosophical reasoning and metaphysics which can open science to new horizons and a further integration of knowledge; and it allows the hearing and welcoming of the Christian faith.103 Specialization is necessary for scientific progress, but has its risks, which this interdisciplinary method of dialog can help to overcome. However, the interdisciplinary dialog itself is not immune to risk. Two dangers are discordism and concordism.104 Discordism is illustrated by the extremes of the two positions: Materialistic Evolutionism and Fixist Creationism. Concordism can be a danger too, by ignoring the different, but not opposite, levels of science, philosophy and theology. There are points of contact between these different levels, for example, the origin of the world, of life, of man. So there arises the necessity of interdisciplinary study and dialog. There is a second factor, in addition to interdisciplinarity, to unify wisdom. Metadisciplinarity respects the diversity of "hierarchical" epistemology.105 Without hierarchy, all the knights of the Round Table are totally equal, says Villagrasa. Interdisciplinarity favors contact between diverse wisdoms, and moves on the horizontal. Metadisciplinarity moves on the vertical level, and asks the hidden ultimate questions which science alone cannot answer. These deeper questions are the subject of philosophy. Meta-science is philosophical reflection.

In conclusion, we are now in a position to join the Neo-Scholastics in an exploration of Evolutionism, the philosophy of evolution, in its various forms, Anti-Fixist, Anti-Finalistic, Mechanistic, Materialistic, or Hylemorphic; and we are in a position to apply our results to the Neo-Scholastic philosophy of man, considering man’s being, body, soul, and future; and finally we can explore even the equivocal uses of Evolutionism that promote evolution a fruitful concept and a universal law regarding life, the cosmos, society, and God

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