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Friday, September 16, 2011

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Louis

Simply as a side note, tangential: It was recently pointed out to me that, so far as we now know, while many other animals generate tears, man is the only animal that sheds them because of emotion. We are the only animal that weeps for another.

craig

When it comes to evolution the question always is: did we evolve or not? If yes, then the question becomes: is it strictly a natural occurence as Darwin posits or did God guide the process of 15 billion years of cosmic/biological evolution? If He guided the process, then the question becomes: how and to what extent? Further questions that arise are: what does ancestral sin ("original sin" in the west) look like in an evolutionary model where our impulses and drives are explained as natural aspects of our natures? Also my favorite question: what the different species that will be the descendents of Homo sapiens???? Are they guaranteed to have "human" souls? If not, does that cause any metaphysical difficulties?

Mark Brumley

Good questions, Craig.

It would be helpful to think a bit about the question, "Is evolution strictly a natural occurence as Darwin posits or did God guide the process ...?" I don't think Darwin addressed the issue in such a way that we can adequately distinguish in him between a natural process in the sense of a feature of the natural world, from a natural process that rejects any dependence of the natural world (and through it the natural world's processes) on anything beyond it. The second view, as you probably know, is usually called philosophical naturalism. I don't think Darwin intended to frame the issues in such a way that God was necessarily excluded altogether from the issue of human existence, whatever may be the implications of Darwin's position. In other words, Darwin wasn't claiming that evolution necesarily entailed atheism. But it is clear that he sought to exclude God's intervention as the explanation for the diversity of organisms and instead appealed to natural processes as accounting for that diversity. That God may ultimately have been the "author" or source of nature, and therefore the source of the processes of nature, including evolution, does not seem to be incompatible with his presentation of evolution.

Even so, the doctrine of creation is incompatible with Darwin's view of man as not radically different in kind from other animals. Even if one were to posit a natural process of evolution, one that does not entail God's intervention to account for the biological diversity of organisms, it seems that a more-than-natural (in the scientific sense of nature) explanation of man's intellectual and volitional abilities is still necessary.

craig

My reading of Darwin (both of his books and of his life) is that he really believed life arose and developed independent of Divine action (despite some PC comments here and there to the contrary). Also, I think once one admits that natural selection occurs, it is not beyond reason or science to see the jump between chimps and humans. Faith in God is faith....esp. in the face of a complete lack of evidence. If you have not read "The Origin of Virtue" by Matt Ridley you should. He explains how our higher human qualities could be the product of blind evolution. Despite that...I still have faith in Christ and His Church, but I admit it is unreasonable and unscientific. (I've become much more eastern in that regard than scholastic). --Just my two cents...

LJ

Despite that...I still have faith in Christ and His Church, but I admit it is unreasonable and unscientific.

The truth of that statement depends massively on your definitions of reason and science does it not, Craig?

This is the entire point that Chesterton and others are getting at, in my opinion. If I define reason as the objectivists do (the Randian cult) it would encompass all of art and virtue.

But if I am to consider reason as the "operating system", so to speak, of human beings, I can recognize that within that system there are self-diagnostic tools yet if I were to expect an upgrade to "2.0" I would have to get that from an outside source, outside of mankind. Which all just begs the inference that the original operating system comes from an outside source to begin with. The Scholastics are merely saying that it is a definition of God, the source of the operating system.

By that measure, the inference to God is not "unreasonable" because it is using the operating system of reason to infer God's existence.

Whether Darwin saw it or not, his theory was constructed in a similar fashion. That is to say, from science he made inferences that were not demonstrated scientifically, in the strict sense of that word.

Strictly speaking, science is the scientific method that we were all taught in high school (or should have been). By itself it holds nothing to be true that it cannot demonstrate, not necessarily explain fully, but can demonstrate consistently. That consistent demonstration itself is a function of reason. We look for "laws" or principles in science. Science is repeatability, the minimization of randomness and that is just a function of our operating system, our reason. It is what enables technology, which is really just employing any predictability in our world to our own ends.

But science as it seems to be applied in modern discourse goes far beyond that limitation and seeks to make proclamations properly belonging to metaphysics, making inferences and asserting them with the authority of "science" which we all mistakenly believe is still operating on that original scientific principle of verifiability. With such an authority we are then brought to this conundrum of thinking that there is a conflict between science and faith, between reason and faith, and we are led to say things like faith is "unreasonable and unscientific." I would say that it is neither.

Our inferences from the natural world, the world of pure scientific study, are as valid as the inferences drawn by Darwin and/or the recent army of atheist evangelists, because in either case they are inferences. I believe that many of us have been intimidated into trying to make some compromise with Darwin, without sufficient pure scientific evidence to do so. That in the big picture the existence of the biosphere and its origins is a subject that quite rightly admits of a variety of possibilities within the parameters of the Creed, in no way compels us to capitulate to the metaphysical inferences of Darwin or his descendents.

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