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Yesterday we started talking about the current fad for “Intelligent Design”. Let’s resume where we left off:
Actually, there are several problems with that approach, though not with the basic instinct of intuiting a Designer.
St - Thomas - Phenomenon - God - Reason
The first is this: St. Thomas himself never says “We cannot explain a natural phenomenon, so God did it”, and for good reason. The problem with such “God of the Gaps” arguments (“I don’t know how this thing works or originated, so it must be a miracle”) is that we are constantly filling in the gaps. A few hundred years ago, people could have said, “If there’s no God, then explain lightning!” Then somebody explained that lightning was a big static electricity discharge. A little after, they might have said, “If there’s no God, then explain magnetism, or immunity from disease, or where babies come from!” Now we know how these processes work pretty well. People who thought such arguments were bulletproof often lost their faith when those arguments fell apart.
That’s why St. Thomas never relied on them. It’s also why he was never bothered when the sciences found (as it is the job of science to do) natural explanations for natural processes. Thomas (much to the surprise of postmoderns) never appealed to things like miracles or the inexplicable to demonstrate the existence of God. And that’s where he differs from Intelligent Design arguments.
St - Thomas - Exceptions - Rules - Fact
So what did St. Thomas do? He appealed, not to exceptions to the Rules, but to the fact that there are any Rules at all. His Argument from Design is not that living systems are amazing exceptions to a lawless and chaotic world, but that the world is not lawless and chaotic. A complex living thing is not a proof of creation while an uncomplex rock is not. Rather, the rock and the living...
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