Gonzaga philosopher Michael W. Tkacz (via Francis Beckwith via Alan Phipps) warms lots of air talking about Aquinas and Intelligent Design without ever trying to understand what Intelligent Design is.
Since the time of Charles Darwin there has been vigorous debate between Christian creationists and Darwinian evolutionists. Neither side has been especially interested in what Catholic Thomism—a minority position to be sure—might contribute to the discussion.
He defines “Intelligent Design” as he understands it:
Now, the advocates of ID have revived the debate with evolutionary biology on scientific grounds. This new challenge to Darwinism attempts to show that the biological evidence supports gradual evolution of species less than it does direct creation by a divine Designer.
This is simply bogus. He creates a straw man and then proceeds to hack away. In fact, Intelligent Design, as coined by Michael Behe, simply points to examples of “irreducible complexity” in biochemistry as evidence of a designer. In other words, it is simply a restatement of the teleological argument for the existence of God, as advanced by philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Thomas Aquinas. Michael Behe is a Catholic–it should be no surprise that he resurrected a Thomistic argument.
Behe is also an evolutionist–a thorough-going, dyed in the wool evolutionist who in fact also rejects a “god of the gaps.” Properly understood, that’s a label that does not fit Creationism at all, but is better applied to “theistic evolution,” an idea that doesn’t seem very popular today. “Christian” evolutionists and atheistic evolutionists seem agreed that evolution is random and contigent and guided by natural selection and not by a divine hand. Behe has no problem with that, either.
I drew attention to Behe’s evolutionism last August. “I have no reason to doubt that the universe is … billions of years old,” he says, and “I find the idea of common descent … fairly convincing” (p. 5). I’d go so far as to say he’s actually a Deist, as seems evident from these statements in his latest book, The Edge of Evolution:
“… Although some religious thinkers envision active, continuing intervention in nature, intelligent design is quite compatible with the view that the universe operates by unbroken natural laws, with the design of life perhaps packed into its initial set-up.”
“The purposeful design of life to any degree is easily compatible with the idea that, after its initiation, the universe unfolded exclusively by the intended playing out of natural laws. [It] is also fully compatible with the idea of universal common descent….”
A bit of attention to the Thomistic philosophy of creation may help to answer these questions. More importantly, investigating the coolness of Thomism toward ID theory may help to move the debate away from its polarized Creation vs. evolution state toward a discussion that is more philosophically productive. A look at the Thomistic understanding of God’s relationship to nature may even suggest a third alternative to the already well-known positions of the Darwinians and ID theorists.
I can only shake my head in disbelief. The very via media he wants between Creationism and atheistic Darwinianism is what Behe offers. Read the guy before you criticize him!