As Catholic philosophers in the Thomistic tradition with an interest in teleological arguments, we looked forward to Stephen Meredith's discussion of "the philosophy and theology behind Intelligent Design" ("Looking for God in All the Wrong Places," February). However, we were quite disappointed.
Meredith claims that Intelligent Design (ID) posits God as the sole efficient cause in nature and that it is necessarily committed to God's intervention in nature. How he arrived at these conclusions, however, is unclear, since by his own admission ID proponents do not consider themselves occasionalists. And ID's claim that the effects of intelligence in nature are empirically detectable clearly does not commit them to the stronger claim that God intervenes in the natural order by directly creating organisms.
Regardless, how can ID proponents be both interventionists and occasionalists? Occasionalists can't believe in intervention, as they deny the existence of an order of natural causation in which to intervene. So Meredith must pick. If he says ID proponents are occasionalists, then the charge is false and lacking textual support in ID proponents' writings. If he says ID proponents are necessarily committed to intervention despite their protests, then he owes them an argument that they are so committed.
At any rate, one may wonder why Christians (people already committed to divine intervention) would be fearful of divine intervention in so important a thing as the origin of life and especially human life. Meredith gives the false impression that the Thomistic or broader Catholic intellectual position supports his position that God only acts directly in salvation history (rather than natural history).
St. Thomas himself believed in the direct creation of Adam by God from the slime of the earth. In fact, Thomas held that God sometimes directly acts apart from the natural order so as to display his power and indicate that he did not create of necessity but of his own free will.
Robert C. Koons
UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS
Logan Paul Gage
Though he avoids using the phrase "God of the gaps," Stephen Meredith trots out yet again this tired old argument. Intelligent Design does not argue from what we do not know but from what we know. Using abduction (inference to the best explanation), ID theorists argue, on scientific rather than theological or philosophical grounds, that what we know about the fine tuning of our universe, the fossil evidence, DNA, etc., points to an intelligent designer rather than undirected time and chance.
Yes, evolution may explain the phenomenon of homology, but so does the existence of a common designer. Indeed, the efficiency of homology is better explained by such a designer than by natural selection. Abductive reasoning underlies archeology and anthropology, where scientists have methods to determine whether a grouping of stones was the result of intelligent agents or the impersonal forces of weathering and erosion. Why are ID theorists to be denied the same method?
Underneath Meredith's critique lies a presupposition shared by many other theistic evolutionists: namely, that it would be somehow unseemly for God to monkey with scientific laws that he himself created. Such an argument would hold weight if Meredith were a deist, but he believes in the miracle-working, intensely involved God of the Bible. Just as God established the laws of nature, so did he place a conscience in all people.
And yet, the same God who established and implanted the laws of conscience broke into human history, met Moses on Mount Sinai, and delivered to him the Ten Commandments. If God's dignity is not violated by this seemingly...