Apr 13, 2008

Intelligent Design--A Discussion

A couple of posts back, one of our sons contributed viewpoints on the movie, Expelled. Another son has gone into more depth on the Catholic Church's position on science, evolution, and intelligent design, as shown below. I'm sure he would welcome comments.
The Catholic Church does not try to determine scientific questions, but being the guardians and defenders of the Truth, it obviously sets boundaries when scientific "answers" try to say that theories conflict with faith. As was noted on a recent Catholic Answers Live question I heard in the last week or so, those boundaries include the following:
  • God create the universe (First Cause), keeps it in existence, create the physical laws that govern it. Unlike what the Deists believe, he did not create it and leave; he keeps in existence.
  • Most critically, Pope Pius XII clearly stated in his encyclical in 1950 (Humanus Generis) that two human beings (male and female) are the parents of all human beings, and that God created them in his image and likeness -- creating them a soul whose creation cannot be explained by physical laws or cannot be passed off with a materialistic explanation.
  • Those two parents committed a sin that caused them to lose their preternatural gifts, saw a loss of innocence, a promise of a Redeemer, and a concupiscence to sin.
When evolution claims multiple first parents, for instance, it is not true. When science claims that the universe has always been in existence, again, it strays into untruth.

Beyond that, though, explaining the origin of species is left up to science to explain -- the Church does not try to. Whether evolution is bad science or not, I don't believe that I'm qualified to give an opinion. There have been many instances where evolutionary theory (Piltdown Man being a great example) goes off the deep end and is totally disproved as a fake and a hoax.

Yet, on the other hand, while offering proof that cellular structures could not evolve so quickly in the time frame envisioned by most scientists needs to be pointed out, an alternate theory needs to be provided other than "intelligent design." Throwing out intelligent design when asked to provide a theory of how something happened when discussing processes of science is unsatisfying and does not fit well into the Church's long stance of supporting the development of science. That to me has been my biggest concern of throwing out intelligent science as an alternative -- "they" who offer need to offer something intellectually satisfying.

For instance, a Big Bang event (which is now generally accepted science) certainly coincides with the thought of a universal beginning. In addition, cellular and mitochondrial examination has started to explain that we all come from a common mother. That is the kind of science that fits in with the Church's boundaries and, yet, provides scientific knowledge.

Ultimately, science is not going to be able to explain everything, but on the other hand, trying to shut down inquiry by saying "intelligent design" and not providing an alternate scientific theory is not an answer.

I will certainly look forward to seeing the movie. Am I opposed to a science teacher saying that the Church is wrong on insisting on his boundaries? Most definitely. That is not the realm of science, and if that happens, the perpetrators need to be called out. Good science, Faith, and Reason can coexist, and there is much been said and written by our current pontiff on this very topic -- Regensburg being one of the more famous examples.

My own humble opinion, [Your son]

Children, Dogs, Saints, and Angels

A reviewer, Marc Joseph, questions a necessary detail of my story of Bella, the dog animated by an angel who helps save a man from going to hell:
I am curious as to the ontological character of the dog. Hmmmm....?
Before addressing the question, I must admit I have mixed feelings about dogs, cats, and other pets who live kingly lives. They are sheltered, admired, loved, and even spoiled by owners who give them the best seats and beds in the house. My husband, an ex-farmer, has an even greater problem with such animals. When he hears that an animal has been given a human name, he often cringes because he suspects the animal may be treated as a substitute human being.

Both of us see that many dogs and cats are substitute 'children' for deliberately barren 'parents' in a contraceptive society. Many people tell me about their Mikey, or Annabelle, or Ernie who solve a craving of their owners to feel loved. Eventually, the dogs and cats become as important as real people, and sometimes lead persons into isolation from other human beings. The person may prefer to live with their animals who will never criticize them. All of us know people who put animals on a par with their spouse, parents, and children. After death, these people even leave their estates to animals, rather than to relatives or poor people.

Yet I remember St. Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals--from the ravaging wolf of Gubbio to the small birds who listened to Francis' sermons. [Did the wolf have two angels, and was the bad one kicked out by St. Francis?] I also see many older people who must live alone, rather than in the close presence of their family. Their pets have become natural friends and are proven to help keep people mentally healthy and even to help them physically.

Now for my answer to Marc Joseph: [BTW, 'ontological' refers to the nature of being of the dog, Bella.] All animals are created by God for the benefit of man (Genesis). When Bella dies, her physical life ends. Bella has no spiritual life--it was never created. However, the design of the dog (not the being) continues to exist and could be used again by God in Heaven (Paradise)--known to be a place to accept our resurrected physical bodies.

The Bible identifies nine classes or orders of Angels: Archangels, Angels, Princedoms, Powers, Virtues, Dominations, Thrones, Seraphims, and Cherubims. According to Aquinas, the angelic order, Virtues, has power over corporeal nature in the working of miracles; they rule the physical universe and possess the bodies of animals and physical things to achieve God's will. Likewise the old Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that the practically unanimous view of the Fathers is that the angels put into execution God's law regarding the physical world.

When the ram replaced Isaac for the sacrifice of Abraham, who made the ram get caught in the bush? Who opened the spring to flow when Moses struck the rock? Who makes the wind rustle in the trees? [(2 Samuel 5:23, 24; 1 Chronicles 14:14, 15)] I suspect God uses his angels far more than we know to love us and assist us in reaching heaven. So is Bella the dog with a guardian angel a reasonable story character--I think so.