Some months ago there was an article called 'Taking Memes Seriously' which drew attention and started a thread for discussion at this site.
That article was an attack on materialist explanations of natural phenomena, such as, in his view, Darwinian evolution. The response here was one of derision and hostility, such that I expected the author, Mark Signorelli, to avoid the subject in future. However, he's back! Dauntless, unabashed and unbowed, he has been busy writing a new evolution-bashing piece to accompany the first. His fondness for the writings of Thomas Aquinas and St Bonaventure seem to lend his prose a kind of verbose and ponderous weightiness which some may mistake for profundity. I think this is worth looking at for anyone interested in the philosophical arguments against evolutionary science - why they are so persuasive to many and yet on close inspection so worthless.
The Lord Shall Have Them In Derision
by Mark Anthony Signorelli (January 2011)
It is glorious for religion to have enemies such as this. - Pascal
Considered in the light of intellectual history, the truly remarkable thing about the reception of Charles Darwin’s work is not the nature or the extent of its apparent theological implications; the remarkable thing is the fact that anyone could believe that it had any real theological implications at all. That great masses of men would come to consider – with either jubilance or indignation – a theory about how species of organisms change over enormous expanses of time an apt challenge to certain theological positions is certainly one of the perverse wonders of the modern world. To be sure, what goes under the name of Darwinism has long since morphed into something far beyond a biological theory, complete with metaphysical and ethical commitments that can hardly be regarded as scientific. Darwinians used to deny this, but not any more; now, they proudly trumpet the fact. Michael Ruse, for one, gloats that “evolution has always been more than just a scientific theory – it has ever been a philosophy, a metaphysics, a Weltanschauung, a secular religion (not so secular at times), even indeed an eschatology.”[i] Still, Darwinism began as, and at its core remains, a theory about how species of organisms change over enormous expanses of time, and as I said, it is a most remarkable thing that such a theory could become a serious rival to any theology, Christian or otherwise. Were one to travel backwards in time to visit Anselm or Duns Scotus, and inform them that in a far distant century, their Christian religion would descend into considerable quiescence in their native country, I suspect that they would have remained unsurprised and undisturbed; such men were not naïve about either the forces of history or the nature of man. But if one were to tell them further that their religion would be superceded in the minds of thousands and millions by a theory about how organisms change over enormous expanses of time, I am quite certain that they would have been incredulous. No doubt, they would attest that their convictions concerning God, the universe, and man’s relationship to both, were such that they were entirely consistent with all possible theories about how species of organisms change over enormous expanses of time, and therefore could not possibly be contradicted by any of them. And they would have been correct. The vaunted, and by now perfectly tiresome, conflict between religion and science is indeed a consequence of ignorance, as the Darwinians constantly insist. However, it is not the recalcitrant ignorance of religious persons towards science that is at the root of the controversy, as they would have us believe; rather, it is their own incorrigible theological and philosophical ignorance that has, from the beginning, generated the intensity of the debate. Let us “count the ways” of their folly.
The Darwinian challenge to theology takes a number of different forms. At its crudest, it triumphs over a literal reading of the scriptural account of creation in Genesis, which is itself the crudest mode of understanding that text. The necessity of reading Genesis literally was dismissed some 1500 years ago by no less orthodox a figure than St. Augustine, who abjured his readers, “let us never think in a literal-minded, fleshly way of utterances in time throughout these days of divine works,” and who moreover held that, in interpreting scripture, “our business…is to inquire how God’s scriptures say he established things according to their proper natures, and not what he might wish to work in them or out of them as a miracle of his power,”[ii] Indeed, he excoriates the rash folly of those Christians who presume to contest scientific questions from the authority of scripture, and thus, by an untutored literalism, bring their creed into disrepute with the scientifically knowledgeable: