[asa] Aquinas & chance

From: George Murphy <gmurphy@raex.com>
Date: Sat Mar 10 2007 - 17:44:50 EST

Bob -

After some delay let me pursue further your comments below. My tendency is to agree with Aquinas on this but what he says here seems to leave open just what is meant by "chance."

In Summa Theologica, 1st Part, Q.22, A.2, Aquinas poses the question "Whether Everything is Subject to the Providence of God." The first objection in support of the negative is:

"For nothing foreseen can happen by chance. If then everything was forseen by God, nothing would happen by chance. And thus chance and luck would disappear, which is against common opinion."

The "common opinion" is what Aquinas endorses in your quote from the Summa C.G. To deal with this objection Aquinas distinguishes between "universal and particular causes." & says, inter alia:

"So far then as an effect escapes the order of a particular cause, it is said to be casual or fortuitous in respect to that cause; but if we regard the universal cause, outside whose range no effect can happen, it is said to be foreseen. Thus, for instance, the meeting of two servants , although it appears to them a chance circumstance, has been fully foreseen by their master, who has purposely sent then to meet at one place in such a way that the one knows not about the other."

So what he means by chance is that the event in question appears fortuitous to us although it is fully determined by God. His example of the 2 servants makes that seem plausible but if we start looking at divine action in the world it appears more questionable. To the extent that God brings things about through secondary causes (i.e., that they are non-miraculous in his sense) and - & here I'm being to some extent anachronistic in thinking about secondary causes - to the extent that those secondary causes obey rational laws which we can discover through scientific investigation - we ought to be able to predict the event as well. So Aquinas defence of chance seems just to refer to human ignorance, & ignorance which is in principle removeable at that.

  ----- Original Message -----
  From: Robert Schneider
  To: Jack ; (Matthew) Yew Hock Tan ; asa@calvin.edu
  Sent: Saturday, March 03, 2007 11:58 AM
  Subject: Re: [asa] Theist Evolutionists - Write your own theory and textbooks [Re: Ditch Darwin...]

  One of the things that TEs or ECs (evolutionary creationists like me) need to do is blow the whistle on those who beat up on the term "random," as if it means that everything in nature operates by "blind chance" (the word "blind" is rhetorical and perjorative). Random events are a fact of life and nature. Some day I'll write a meditation on St. Thomas Aquinas' statement (it's in Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 74) that "it would be contrary to the nature of providence and the perfection of the world if nothing happened by chance."

  Commenting on this statement Jack Haught writes (God After Darwin, p. 40), "Even St. Thoms Aquinas argued that a world devoid of chance or contingency could not really be distinct from its God. The world has to have aspects of nonnecessity or contingency in order to be a world at all. [Then the quotation, after which Haught continues] Thus the randomness and undirected features of evolution are not just "apparent".... They are, in fact, essential features of any world created by a gracious God."

  Bob Schneider
    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Jack
    To: (Matthew) Yew Hock Tan ; asa@calvin.edu
    Sent: Saturday, March 03, 2007 10:41 AM
    Subject: Re: [asa] Theist Evolutionists - Write your own theory and textbooks [Re: Ditch Darwin...]

    It seems to me you are conflating two aspects of "Darwinism".

    In terms of Darwinism being a philosophy/ideology, TE's never accepted that aspect of Darwinism. We have never thought that there is no supreme being that controlled evolution in some sense. And please, here I am just addressing the aspect of Darwinism that some evolutionists, especially the vocal ones like Dennet, and Dawkins propose which is that Darwinism supports atheism.

    The other aspect of Darwinism, the mechanism of biological change, is a scientific question. TE's as a group would not be opposed to some other mechanism if the evidence supported it, (such as no single ancestor tree of life.) I dont think the TE's need to "think outside the box," it is the evidence that will speak for itself.
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: (Matthew) Yew Hock Tan
      To: asa@calvin.edu
      Sent: Saturday, March 03, 2007 10:26 AM
      Subject: [Norton AntiSpam] [asa] Theist Evolutionists - Write your own theory and textbooks [Re: Ditch Darwin...]


      Thanks for your response.

      I understood what you mean, and I also knew from your website that you are a physicist.

      I suppose the use of the words "ditch" and "ideology" makes it sound "quite emotive". But I am simply using the same words the Chronicle uses, which I thought might stimulate brilliant minds here. And the bacteria "not stupid" is from the title of a cool-headed scientific article which is certainly not emotive.

      I was just thinking how far Theist Evolutionists here are prepared to go to drop these aspects of Darwinism (the ideology/philosophy) - not Darwin himself. This was prompted by the Chronicle's report that "scholars from both sides of the Atlantic agreed that scientists should change the way they present their views" and "Terms like Darwinism can make evolutionary biology seem like an ideology".

      Don't you agree that to change the way to present the evolution theory so that it does not seem like an ideology and to "win the argument" on evolution might require revamping or reformulate the theory -- make it more scientific and evidence-based and drop those aspects of Darwinism that seem like "ideology" (actually I mean philosophy).

      If the Theist Evolutionists would think out-of-the-box, many of the philosophical assumptions I mentioned are not really necessary for the theory. If evolution really happened, it might not happen in the way the textbooks presented it; there might not be a single-ancestor tree of life, evolution of novel structures and organs might not have come about through "random" mutations. Why put in all these unscientific stuffs which are really philosophical worldviews - making the theory seems like a dogmatic (and in extreme cases even anti-God) ideology?

      No wonder Theist Evolutionists here have admitted (in another thread) that the creationists see you as "lapdogs" of the atheists to serve as "one night stand" for their apologetic purposes. I am not being emotive here. These were actually written by the Theist Evolutionists here.

      Is it not high time Theist Evolutionists write your own textbooks and theory of evolution?
      -- Given the recent articles by evolutionist biologists Doolittle and James Shapiro, the URL I repeat here:

      (1) "Uprooting the Tree of Life" by Doolittle
      (2) Bacteria are small but not stupid:
      Cognition, natural genetic engineering, and sociobacteriology
      by James A. Shapiro


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Received on Sat Mar 10 17:46:18 2007

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