Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Catholics and Evolutionary Theory

A roulette wheel.                     Image via Wikipedia
A thoughtful article and comments at this blog.

Important points raised include:

* The distinction between primary and secondary causes. From the comments:
THE PROBLEM WITH ATHEISTS is that they conclude that because God is not a secondary cause, neither is he the primary cause.
THE PROBLEM WITH INTELLIGENT DESIGN THEORISTS is that they conclude that because God is the primary cause, he is also a secondary cause.
And, finally, THE PROBLEM WITH STRICT CREATIONISTS is that they conclude that because God is the primary cause, there are no secondary causes.
BUT THE THOMIST (calm and collected as he must always be) concludes that because God is the primary cause, all else must be secondary causes — and he never confuses the two.
(It would be interesting to know what this commenter does with the resurrection and miracles in general.)

Note: The concepts of primary and secondary causes are not well understood.  Here's a bit more on them:
[38] The use of primary and secondary causes is common knowledge amongst Aristotelian thinkers, hence, my reason for not elaborating on this. But for those readers who may not be familiar with this terminology, the primary is considered as the first efficient cause, while the secondary is considered to be an aiding efficient cause for the primary efficient cause. Secondary causes are not necessary in every event, however, a primary cause is. My wife may tell me to take out the trash, then she would be considered the primary efficient cause of the trash being dumped (assuming I do take it out), then I am the secondary efficient cause. However, if I choose not to (which is suicidal) and she takes it out, she would be the primary cause, with no secondary cause. 
Additionally, I did not expound on the difference between existential versus nonexistential causes. Simply put, an existential cause is considered to be an ongoing sustaining cause; while a nonexistential cause is much like a one-time temporal cause. The father is a one-time shot as the donor of the sperm for the zygotes coming-to-being, he is clearly neither a direct or indirect primary or secondary existential cause. Source: Bill King, Thomas Aquinas on The Metaphysical Problem of Evil
* A discussion of the word "random". Again, from the comments:
Dr Stephen Barr, who writes and speaks about such things often, has noted that a distinction must be made between the terms “random” and “unplanned.” “Random” is a scientific term that simply means uncorrelated. “Unplanned” is not a scientific term, as it deals with a being’s purpose. You appear to equate the two, but I believe that this is an essential distinction to make in any discussion such as this. That a process is random does not imply that it is unplanned, unguided, or blind. That a correlation cannot be seen does not imply that there is no purpose in what is happening.
Jay Richards (of the Discovery Institute) also weighs in on the darwinian use of the term random.

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"... nothing intellectually compelling or challenging.. bald assertions coupled to superstition... woefully pathetic"