under the patronage of St Joseph and St Dominic
By the rivers of Babylon there we sat and wept, remembering Zion;
SHAKING THE DARWINIAN FOUNDATIONS
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New Zealand molecular biologist, Dr Michael Denton, was the first secular scientist to provide a comprehensive attack on the scientific community’s faith in Darwin’s theory of evolution with his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis published in 1985 . This was his conclusion:
For reasons connected with his commitment to materialism, however, Dr Denton continued to hold to the Darwinian theory. He remarked: “Reject Darwinism and there is, in effect, no scientific theory of evolution.”
Yet his pursuit of the truth would not let him rest, and thirteen years later he produced another book, Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology reveal Purpose in the Universe , in which he exposes the evidence for design and finality in the natural world. He says in the prologue:
He goes further—
In his review of Nature’s Destiny, Monsignor John F. McCarthy of the Roman Theological Forum, remarks that the book is “a pathfinder for the sincere Darwinian who is striving to find his way out of the purposeless world of ‘evolution by chance alone’.” A student of the issues could not do better than to read Monsignor McCarthy’s reviews of this book and its predecessor. Both books can be obtained via booksellers on the internet.
Dr Denton’s Materialism
There is a long passage in the prologue to Nature’s Destiny in which Dr Denton defends his position against suggestions that he has, perhaps unwittingly, provided grist for the theological mill.
Dr Denton shares with the overwhelming majority of scientists adherence to the philosophy of materialism. When he says that his argument “is entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption of modern science”, he is referring to this philosophical position.
His materialism inclines him to regard the evidence of experience as determinative of what must be. Science observes in the world a process—favourable conditions; inanimate being; living being. According to the presuppositions of materialism there is no other influence in the world but matter, matter evolving in accordance with the process science claims to observe. This process, then, is an inevitable part of the laws of nature. So “[the] origin and design [of natural forms] were built into the laws of nature from the beginning...” and “the unbroken continuity of the organic world [grounds] the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms… no less natural than salt crystals, atoms, waterfalls, or galaxies.”
By ‘natural forms’ Dr Denton does not mean what is implicit in Aristotle and explicit in the teaching of St Thomas—the exemplary forms in the mind of the author of nature realised (ie, made real) in the material instances which fall under our senses. He means the categories of things observed by science, inanimate and animate, into which matter is (allegedly) observed to evolve in an inevitable continuum. In the same way, when he uses the word ‘law’ in the expression ‘the laws of nature’ he does not mean what the metaphysician means by it—an ordinance of intellect imposed on nature by its author and manifested in the behaviour of its elements . He uses the term analogously: the scientist observes the rigour with which behaviour of a certain sort occurs in nature and, so constant is this behaviour, he regards himself as entitled to call it a law.
Nor, when he uses the term ‘contingent’ does he use it in the way the metaphysician uses it. When he says that creationists regard “living organisms [not as] natural forms, whose origin and design were built into the laws of nature from the beginning but rather contingent forms” he charges creationists with an unnecessary interruption of the inevitable progression of nature allegedly observed by science. For the metaphysician the material instances of natural forms are contingent; they can both be and be-not: though the forms themselves are fixed. The materialist (following Dr Denton) does not distinguish the natural forms from the matter in which they are observed. He regards the natural forms as necessary manifestations of matter in the evolutionary process.
He is right when he says that creationists regard these forms as “analogous in essence to human artifices”, though creationists would put it more appropriately (and elegantly) that the works of man (‘the artificial’) are analogous to the forms that the creator has first placed in nature (‘the natural’). He is right, too, when he says that these forms are the result
of ‘supernatural acts’ . But it is questionable whether he means what the creationists mean by that term. For the materialist the creation of natural things is supernatural because beyond the scope of his idea of the natural order, the inevitable appearance of species in the asserted evolutionary march. This is what he is referring to when he says
In Evolution: A Theory in Crisis he mentions in passing the view of Plato, from which the metaphysical view is derived, that—
In the eyes of the materialist continuity is everything. Once break the material chain and you allow the need for an explanation for phenomena other than a material explanation.
Dr Denton asserts the superiority of the modern scientific view over the creationist view because science holds that the cosmos can be comprehended in its entirety by human reason. What he means by this is that the whole of reality is adequately explained by an unfolding flow in a material continuum. Given the effort he has put into Nature’s Destiny, he can hardly be satisfied with this assertion. It is unconvincing, in any event, given his concession that scientists have not the slightest understanding of the constitutive of living things, nor of how they came to exist in the first place.
He asserts the existence of the laws of nature as a materialist must, something accidental, something established by blind chance. His materialism prevents him making the obvious induction that laws (even those imposed on blind natural things) presuppose a lawgiver. The remark of St Thomas quoted at the head of this article is to the point: no being can aim towards some end unless directed by intelligence. The presence of living creatures on earth is not the result of the laws of nature. Rather, the laws of nature are necessary corollaries of the presence of living creatures—manifestations of the order placed in their being by an intelligent creator.
Dr Denton has progressed in Nature’s Destiny from the position he held in Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. He has passed from the negative position of showing the defects in evolutionary theory to the positive one of demonstrating the manifold evidences of design and finality in nature. However, in another sense he has regressed, retreated further into materialism. In his first book, in a chapter entitled The Enigma of Life’s Origin, he reported on the effects in the scientific community of the failure of the 1976 Viking probe to find evidence of life on Mars:
In Nature’s Destiny, however, he seems to have forgotten these conclusions in his enthusiasm over “the growing consensus that the origin of life is built into the laws of nature and… [is] therefore inevitable on any planetary surface where conditions permit it.” In the first book he demonstrated the utter lack of logic in the evolutionists’ position. In the second he has demonstrated his own lack of logic by ignoring his own arguments against their position.
Reluctance among Catholics to abandon the Evolutionary Thesis
In the course of setting out the history of the alteration in scientific attitude towards nature in Nature’s Destiny, Dr Denton quotes the following passage from Robert Chambers, author of the 1840 publication, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, in support of the quasi-religious view that “evolution had been written into the cosmic script from the beginning”.
This ‘religious’ view shows the influence on Chambers of the subjectivist mood, and an incipient materialism. To Almighty God’s revelation of how he went about the work of creation, Chambers preferred his own idiosyncratic analysis which, be it noted, relied on nothing more than a perception that the development of natural forms must follow what the scientists of his time had induced (not deduced) to be the result “of natural laws which are the expressions of [God’s] will.” His conclusion was gratuitous.
Formed in the one religion on earth which is rooted in realism, Catholics ought to be free of the influence of materialism and resistant to the clamour for some sort of evolutionist explanation for creation, but they are not. Like Robert Chambers, modern Catholic philosophers and theologians are prepared to ignore sacred scripture in their insistence that the forms of natural things must somehow bear within them the seeds of change—a sort of God-directed evolution. This attitude panders to the spirit of the age; it is fashionable, driven by the fear of ridicule. It is unnecessary. The categories of metaphysics militate against any form of evolutionism.
Each living creature is comprised of prime matter and substantial form. Its substantial form (its soul) is an instance of an essence, fixed and determinate, which makes it both to live and to be what it is. The alleged seeds of change could not be in the prime matter from which the natural thing is formed, for prime matter is of itself utterly formless. They could only be in the natural thing as a second (or third, or fourth…) substantial form—for the assertion of evolutionists is that evolution effects a substantial change in the thing. But St Thomas teaches that it is impossible for more than one substantial form to be in one body. Among his reasons is the following:
It follows that there is no possible repository for the alleged evolutionary principle in the living thing.
Sacred Scripture and the Church’s Consideration
There is nothing in sacred scripture to support a concession to any sort of evolutionism. The Book of Genesis offers two descriptions of creation, on their face contradictory. Almighty God is said to create everything at once (simul), and yet to do so over six days. St Thomas solves the dilemma.
In his answer to the previous objection in the same article of the Summa Theologiae, he explains what he means—
And in answer to the fourth objection he says—
Almighty God brought the various elements in his creation from potency to act as and when he willed. Catholics are not bound by a strict literalism to say that he did this in six calendar days. Scientific studies do not harm, they assist, our faith by showing when he appears to have done so in respect of a great number of the immense variety of the species of living things. The Church allows an interpretation of sacred scripture that agrees generally with what natural history shows. Even using their best endeavours there is much the natural historians cannot tell us. Of one thing however, we can be certain: the form of every creature that has ever existed on the face of the earth emanates from, and endures in, the mind of God, who gave them both existence and life.
In his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, Pope Pius XII insisted on the soundness of the Church’s philosophy grounded in the metaphysics of St Thomas. He condemned those who assert that any kind of philosophy or theory with a few additions or corrections could be reconciled with Catholic dogma. He condemned also (amongst other philosophies) what he described as “the fictitious theories” of materialism [ibid., n. 32]. He urged caution in dealing with hypotheses with some sort of scientific foundation that impinge upon the Church’s doctrine:
Earlier in the encyclical, while noting that the hypothesis of evolution had not been fully proven even in the domain of the natural sciences [n. 5], he allowed that it was appropriate to study it. However, he remarked how—
He referred to these tenets as “fictitious” and observed that they “repudiate all that is absolute, firm and immutable” [n.6].
Humani Generis was issued 57 years ago at a time when the investigations of science into the evolutionary claims were, so to speak, in their infancy. An immense amount of work has been done since then, with what absence of effect to secure the credibility of evolutionary theory Dr Denton’s two books have demonstrated.
Dr Denton’s conclusion quoted above that there is no evidence whatsoever to justify Darwin’s macro-evolutionary theory confirms at the scientific level what theology and sound philosophy have ever maintained. There is no need to make any concession to a philosophy which pays not the slightest respect to the doctrine of causality.
 Summa Theologiae., 1, q. 2, a. 3
 Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, London, 1985
 Ibid, p. 345
 Ibid., p.355.
 The Free Press, New York, 1998.
 Nature’s Destiny: How the Laws of Biology reveal Purpose in the Universe, The Free Press, New York, 1998, Note to the Reader, p. xiii
 Ibid., p. xi. Telelogy is the study of the evidences for design, or purpose, in nature.
 “The Failure of Darwinism and its fuller implications”, at http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt26.html and “Dr Michael Denton’s Nature’s Destiny”, at http://www.rtforum.org/lt/lt117.html
 Nature’s Destiny, op. cit., Note to the Reader, pp. xvii-xviii; emphasis in original.
 Cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 91, a. 1: “[A] law is nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community. It being accepted that the world is ruled by Divine providence, it is evident… that the whole community of the universe is governed by the Divine reason. Hence, the very idea of the government of things in God the ruler of the universe has the nature of a law…”
 More precisely, miraculous acts; cf. St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II, q. 113, a. 10
 Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, op. cit., p. 19
 Cf. Nature’s Destiny, op. cit., pp. 292-3.
 Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, op. cit., p. 255
 Ibid., p. 260
 Nature’s Destiny, op. cit., p. 265 et seq.
 Nature’s Destiny, op. cit., pp. 269-70
 Summa Theologiae, I, q.76, a. 3
 Cf. St Augustine & St Thomas on Creation, at http://www.superflumina.org/creation_sts_augustine_&_thomas.html
 Cf. Creation Rediscovered at http://www.superflumina.org/creation_rediscovered.html; The Schismatic Tendency in Creation Science at http://www.superflumina.org/creation_schismatic_tendency.html
 12th August 1950