I have read about these kinds of events in Scripture, but I never thought it could happen to me. St. Thomas Aquinas appeared to me in a dream last night. It was a brief visit, but he stayed with me long enough to discuss the neo-Thomists.
SB: Glory be to God. St. Thomas, you are one of my heroes.
ST: Thank you, my son, but I have a question for you. Are the neo-Thomists trying to make me look bad? The last thing in the world I would ever do is ignore the scientific evidence for biological design? More to the point, I would have no reason to doubt it. My philosophy of nature could admit that information with no problem at all. Why do they find conflict where none exists?
SB: Our Thomist critics claim that ID arguments blur the distinction between a “function” and a “nature.” I think that is because we sometimes use words like “factory” when we describe the phenomenon by which proteins are built inside a human cell. They say that by using this kind of language, we are describing ultimate reality in mechanistic terms.
ST: But it is not an either/or kind of thing. A human being, for example, has a nature, but his liver has a function. To study or draw inferences about the function of a man’s liver, which is merely a part of his body, is not to deny or argue against the existence of his end-directed nature, which is a holistic description of what he is.
SB: I agree, but the neo-Thomists also have very strong ideas about God’s process of creation, and they associate them with you. According to them, you say that God creates only through secondary causality. In other words, God doesn’t tweak his material creation—ever. God, they say, always fashions his handiwork through intrinsic finality and never resorts to external finality.
ST: How did they arrive at that novel interpretation?
SB: I asked them to provide the relevant quotes, but they didn’t get back to me.
ST: Clearly, they are misreading me. Among other things, I said that God created man’s body by forming him out of dust, directly and immediately. So, obviously, my philosophy of nature, though acknowledging the fact of secondary causality in the physical realm, does not rule out primary causality, external finality, or tweaking. Yes, I taught that God can create through secondary causality, but nowhere did I ever say that God creates exclusively through secondary causality. The neo-Thomists are just making that up. Did you explain that to them?
SB: Yes, but they didn’t get back to me.
ST: What is their biggest problem with you folks?
SB: They think we reject, in principle, the very thing that they insist on–the proposition that God creates through secondary causality or the gradual unfolding of an evolutionary process.
ST: Do you?
SB: No, not at all. Some of our researchers, like Michael Behe, believe that God created almost everything that way.” Others, like William Dembski, are not so sure. However, we accept the possibility of common descent as part of our theory.
ST: Did you explain that to them?
SB: Yes, but they didn’t get back to me.
ST: But even if I had ruled out primary causality as one of God’s tools for creation, which I didn’t, that fact alone would still not create a conflict between Intelligent Design and my philosophy of nature. And even if ID ruled out secondary causality as one of God’s tools for creation, which it doesn’t, that fact alone would still not create a conflict between Intelligent Design and my philosophy of nature. The only way ID could conflict with Thomism would be if it rejected secondary causality AND if Thomism required secondary causality exclusively.
SB: Yes, that’s right.
ST: I think I understand. The neo-Thomists who attack Intelligent Design misunderstand both Thomism and Intelligent design. Because of their double confusion, they insist that ID is incompatible with Thomism?
SB: Yes, but there is more. I recall that you once demonstrated that we can prove the existence of God through the use of unaided reason. ID, which is scientific, can only demonstrate the existence of a designer who, in principle, could be someone other than God. The neo-Thomists say that empirical science should not undertake such a study because you have already made a better case for God through philosophical reasoning. They demand to know why should we put up with a probability argument when we have something far more certain. Also, non-believers, we are told, may come to the mistaken conclusion that the ID argument for biological design is the only “apologetic” available. If it fails, those who depended on it will fall into despair and lose their faith.
ST: Do they use that same kind of reasoning when they evaluate scientific arguments coming from cosmology and astrophysics? Are they equally fearful that theories about the “big bang” or the finely-tuned constants of the universe, because of their provisional nature, may fail and lead to a loss of faith?
ST: Why are they so selective about which design arguments they attack? Why do they praise arguments for cosmological fine-tuning and condemn arguments for biological fine tuning?
SB: I asked them that question, but they didn’t get back to me. Indeed, they seldom interact with any of us or respond to our scientific arguments.
ST: Are they reluctant to consider scientific evidence or follow where it may lead?
SB: Perhaps. Most of them seem to have already made up their minds.
They think that Charles Darwin was right about nature. Incredibly, they hold that your philosophy of nature is compatible with Darwin’s theory of evolution.
ST: Let me get this straight–My pro-design arguments clash with ID’s pro-design arguments and harmonize with Darwin’s anti-design arguments?—My proofs that God is necessary harmonize with Darwin’s proofs that God is unnecessary? The men who say these things call themselves Thomistic philosophers?
SB: Yes, I am afraid so. I use the word “afraid,” because I fear that these anti-ID fanatics are ruining your reputation.
ST: Be at peace, my son. If they make it to heaven, and I hope they do, I will be there waiting to extend my warmest greeting—-with a bucket of Gatorade.