Darwinism Intelligent Design theistic evolution

Why do Catholic intellectuals claim Thomas Aquinas would cozy up to Darwinism?

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Especially when it comes to a Darwinian approach to human beings?

Man, the universal, does not really exist. According to the late Stanley Jaki, Chesterton* detested Darwinism because “it abolishes forms and all that goes with them, including that deepest kind of ontological form which is the immortal human soul.” And if one does not believe in universals, there can be, by extension, no human nature—only a collection of somewhat similar individuals.

Classical notions of ethics were radically dependent upon this notion of a real, knowable human nature. Aristotle and others often argued for what is ethical in terms of what leads to human flourishing and fulfillment. Yet if there is no human nature, how can we know what human fulfillment looks like in general? Tim and Tom might, then, flourish under different moral codes. Lack of a human nature may leave us with “different strokes for different folks.”

As philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre showed in After Virtue, the way out of this modern dilemma is to recognize that if something’s nature includes purposes or proper functions, then “ought” follows from “is.” For if man is a certain sort of being, if he has a certain formal nature, then there are facts about how man ought to behave. There are objective criteria by which we can judge a human being good or bad. This kind of telos-infused nature cannot be sustained by Darwinism, however, for Darwinism denies that organisms have formal natures or are purposefully made. Logan Paul Gage, “Darwin, Design & Thomas Aquinas:” The Mythical Conflict Between Thomism & Intelligent Design at Touchstone

The pass elite Catholics have given to naturalism (nature is all there is, often called “materialism”) by accommodating Darwinism is another shabby episode in the life of the modern Catholic church. The thing is, they don’t even have to do it. The smart people in evolution are doing it less and less.

*orthodox Catholic apologist, 20th c.

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See also: Eric Holloway: ID as a bridge between Francis Bacon and Thomas Aquinas

14 Replies to “Why do Catholic intellectuals claim Thomas Aquinas would cozy up to Darwinism?

  1. 1
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I guess they decided that if common descent is true then “human nature” doesn’t actually exist.

    Would we say that Logan Paul Gage, Alasdair MacIntyre, Stanley Jaki and G. K. Chesterton are “creationists”?

  2. 2
    Mung says:

    I love Jaki’s writing.

  3. 3
    buffalo says:

    Yet we Catholics understand we are commonly descended from Adam and Eve.

  4. 4
    AaronS1978 says:

    I think the problem is evolution is compatible with the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas as it does show a form of teleology and purpose in nature, and the potentiality of the form can be found in the matter. Where the problem arises as one Darwinism gets involved ( Evolution that attempts to disprove God) Darwinism is not compatible with Thomastic thought. Darwinism tries the strip God from nature, and what Darwinism does is removed the teleology from nature and turns it into a random soup of particles that just happened to come together and evolve into a form in the most ridiculously lucky way that it possibly could.

  5. 5
    AaronS1978 says:

    I like to make this comparison Darwinism is like a headless snake. The body moves around randomly, slithers and continues to function. Therefore we assumed falsely but the body doesn’t need the head. However if the body wishes to continue to live, much like reality needs an intelligence, That body will need a head.

  6. 6
    AaronS1978 says:

    Not “but” = that I really need to stop using talk to text sorry guys

  7. 7
    StephenB says:

    Why do Catholic intellectuals claim Thomas Aquinas would cozy up to the Darwinists?

    That’s easy. They want to use the Cachet of St. Thomas to make a false claim seem true and make their dull selves seem smart.

  8. 8
    EricMH says:

    tldr; neo-Thomists are actually anti-Thomists. They disagree with the very foundation of Aquinas’ project.

    The fact that Darwinism does not agree with Aquinas’/Aristotle’s functional morality is one reason ID convinced me to become Catholic.

    I am highly skeptical that any form of evolution is consistent with Aquinas, since one of his 5 ways states a cause is greater than the effect (therefore God), but progressive evolution reverses this direction to effects (men) are greater than their causes (amoebas).

    The “neo-Thomists” acceptance of materialism seems to actually be a neo-Averroës two truths doctrine. Ironic since Averroës was one of the primary targets of Aquinas. Aquinas’ ultimate project was to show there were not two truths, but one truth, and all sources of truth (divine revelation and human reason) were consistent with each other.

  9. 9
    AaronS1978 says:

    Agreed, Although I do believe standard evolution is compatible with Thomistic thinking, i’m talking about evolution as organisms evolving and changing to their environment. The Darwinian mess that is a giant that so that argument for the entirety of all of existence, is incompatible with Thomistic thinking.

  10. 10
    vmahuna says:

    Um, have you READ any of GK Chesterton’s writing? He was mostly as Essayist, with a weekly column in the Times. But he wrote several full length novels and of course the Father Brown mysteries, most of which had a Moral hiding in there someplace. One of the Father Brown stories is specifically about a murder in France (because the plot needed several decapitated corpses, and France still performed executions with the guillotine) which hinged on an evil Darwinist killing a millionaire so that the millionaire’s fortune would go to “Science” rather than Catholic charities.

    But even for the 1930s, Chesterton’s understanding of Science was pretty sketchy. Still, he was a gentle soul, and his work remains thoroughly entertaining. I think the BBC did a “Father Brown Mysteries” series.

  11. 11
    Silver Asiatic says:

    EricMH

    The “neo-Thomists” acceptance of materialism seems to actually be a neo-Averroës two truths doctrine. Ironic since Averroës was one of the primary targets of Aquinas. Aquinas’ ultimate project was to show there were not two truths, but one truth, and all sources of truth (divine revelation and human reason) were consistent with each other.

    I didn’t know that. Details and elaboration would make a fascinating topic (for me anyway).

    Agreed that Aquinas cannot be reconciled with Darwinism or theistic evolution.

  12. 12
    PaV says:

    This article by Gage is excellent and I would recommend it to everyone, but especially to Thomist philosophers.

    I’d heard of the argument that ID is “mechanistic” before, but really didn’t understand what is was they were arguing. Gage makes this argument clear and then refutes it.

    Great read!

  13. 13
    Silver Asiatic says:

    I hope to see the Darwinian-Thomist response to this.

  14. 14
    EricMH says:

    Averroës was an Islamic philosopher who declared there were two realms of truth, religious and philosophical, and they did not overlap. Therefore, the truths of philosophy (Aristotle) were not a threat to the truths of religion (Islam) and visa versa. That is the non-overlapping magisteria proposed by Gould, and seems to be accepted, at least to a degree, by what I see from the neo-Thomists.

    The same sort of idea was circulating during the time of Aquinas, since Aristotle’s works were becoming accessible in Europe, and some thought Aristotle’s teachings contradicted Catholic doctrine. Aquinas set out to show that insofar as Aristotle’s thought was true it was not in conflict with Catholic doctrine, and Catholic doctrine took it further.

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