Tuesday, August 28, 2018

“The fact of evolution”

“IN another lecture I took up the design argument. Here, too, I presented my own ideas couched in views or comments made by various people during the previous hundred years or so. I made much of Darwin’s contradictory statements about design and purpose, to say nothing of natural selection and chance. The topic demanded more space, but it was not for another twelve years that I had the opportunity to devote a set of eight lectures to the design argument taken as a particular aspect of the much broader question of purpose. I have, however, made it clear that, regardless of the defects of the mechanism of evolution, the fact of evolution had to be held by a theist even more firmly than by a materialist. For a materialist merely the power of matter is at stake, whereas for the theist the honor of the Creator as one who can endow matter with all the power proper to matter.

“Clearly, a notion of a Creator who had to interfere with natural processes whenever a new species was to arise, had to appear unworthy of God, who can and ought to be worshiped, and a theology that has such a God for its object. By evolution I simply meant that the powers of matter are wholly sufficient to account for any material transformation insofar as it is observable and measureable, be it the transformation of species. For the scientist any species as such has to be a strictly material entity. In that respect the competence of the scientist is unlimited. By the same token, the scientist cannot argue against some non-material directive force in nature as long as that force remains non-material, that is, metaphysical. Such a force cannot be considered non-existent just because the scientific method forecloses it being observed, weighed, and measured. Philosophy is required to prove the existence of such a force, though without ever attributing to it any material characteristic. The scientist may safely ignore it, though to be consistent he should also say that he cannot observe life. Life is not merely the motion of bits of matter and the replicating of their configurations. Fully satisfactory thinking about evolution implies the often frustrating recognition that one has to handle at the same time two balls, standing for two mutually irreducible sets of concepts.”

~Stanley L. Jaki: A Mind’s Matter: An Intellectual Autobiography, Chap. 6—The Gifford Lectureship.