I am beginning to wonder if I don’t need to write a complete book on this Intelligent Design stuff. Brian left a long comment at the end of my last major blog on the topic. I found that most of the places where he disagrees with me and I disagree with him, he has misunderstood me.
So let me say this for the record:
1) I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, who is the Creator of heaven and earth. So: I believe the world has been designed by an intelligent being whom I worship as my God. Moreover, when I look at the world, I marvel at his handiwork. When I talk about “Intelligent Design”, I am not talking about the well respected philosophical tradition of the “Argument from Design” for God’s existence. I am, rather, speaking specifically of what I call “trademark ID”, that is, ID as promoted by the Discovery Institute and by scientists such as Michael Behe.
2) I believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God, and therefore accept them as true, inspired, and inerrant in all matters of faith and morals.
3) I don’t have an especial affection for or attachment to the theory of evolution. I am not a scientist, and would not be overly bothered if tomorrow it was scientifically proved to be load of codswallop.
That having been said, I believe that Christians have problems with the theory of evolution because
1) it seems to imply that human beings and everything else came into being as a “casual and meaningless product of evolution” (to use Pope Benedict’s words), or by pure unguided and unplanned chance, or (to use the Holy Father’s words again), because it seems to deny that “each of us is the result of a thought of God; [that] each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”
2) it seems to contradict the best-known account of creation in the scriptures, namely the first chapter of Genesis.
I believe it is essential for every Christian at all interested in this question to know that in fact neither of these problems is really posed by the theory of evolution. My reasons for saying so are as follows:
1) St Thomas Aquinas already pointed out almost eight hundred years ago that there is no contradiction between events that happen “contingently” (ie. by randomly or by chance) rather than “necessarily” (ie. pre-determined) and the involvement of the will and purpose of the Creator. He wrote (and every Christian should memorise these words):
If God foresees that this event will be, it will happen, just as the second argument suggested. But it will occur in the way that God foresaw that it would be. Now, he foresaw that it would occur contingently [ie. by chance]. So, it follows that, without fail, it will occur contingently and not necessarily” (SCG, 3, c.94).
To say, therefore, that the happening of an event is scientifically and statistically random is not to say that it happens without meaning or purpose or the intention of Divine Providence. In other words, “the modern argument that the recognition of the role in chance in evolution would eliminate God from the process is simply a non-starter” (Neil Ormerod, Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Australian Catholic University). I am sure the Holy Father knows this, and therefore does not attack the theory of evolution per se, but rather rejects the notion that what may indeed be products of evolution are “meaningless” or that the evolutionary process implies that human beings (and indeed all creation) are not “each the result of the thought of God.”
2) A much deeper problem is with the seeming conflict between the scientific account of evolution and (one of) the biblical accounts of creation (specifically Genesis 1). As my wife said to me on the weekend when I discussed with her the probable origins of the poem in Genesis 1 during the Babylonian exile and the way in which it built upon earlier liturgical and cultic traditions of the origin of the Sabbath and the seven day week, “But we were never taught that.” Basically, we have taught our people that the Psalms are poetry, and the Book of Ecclesiastes is philosophy, and the Prophetic books are prophecy (naturally), but we have also somehow taught them that Genesis 1 is history (and, in the process, failed to teach them what “history” is). In short, because I am convinced that Genesis One is NOT history, nor is it science, but rather a profoundly TRUE poetic meditation (and apologetic) upon Israel’s faith in its God as a Universal (rather than local) Creator who acted in love and freedom to create a Rational world, I believe it does not conflict in any way with the theory of evolution per se. Moreover, John 1, and not Genesis 1, must be taken as the “conclusive and normative scriptural creation account” (Ratzinger, “In the Beginning”, p 15.
Of course, here is where the book comes in. And I will make a start on it…tomorrow.