Evolving Beyond Darwin & Luther
As we go along, readers might feel as if I'm being harder on one side than the other. But please suspend judgment until we're done, because I'm certain that everyone will have a chance to be equally offended. The ultimate purpose of this series will be to heal that painful split once and for all (obviously in theory -- I'm not that grandiose), but some disassembly will be required. However, there's no need to disassemble one another.
It's really rather fascinating, because it immediately brings up all of the original passions that provoked the schism to begin with. Except that 500 years of the civilizing process has made us much less prone to kill one another over doctrinal matters and metaphysical disputes.
Which, now that I think about it, is an interesting subject in itself, and one that I attempted to tackle in chapter 3 of my book. That is, either in conjunction with, or in opposition to it, there is an autonomous "civilizing process" that must be taken into consideration. In other words, people can obviously be quite passionately religious, but uncivilized to the point of monstrous savagery. The Islamists are only the latest example, but again, when you read about what Catholics and Protestants did to one another during the religious wars, you wonder how Western man ever evolved out of that barbarism (those who did, anyway).
I also happen to be reading Gilson's From Aristotle to Darwin & Back Again: A Journey in Final Causality, Species and Evolution, which I'm unconsciously weaving and blending into this patchwork stew. For Gilson -- who was a Catholic philosopher -- brings to light the extreme irony that Protestantism and Darwinism are quite directly linked, for they are really just two competing versions of modernity -- a modernity which is already intellectually exhausted.
For as Cardinal Schönberg explains in the foreword to the book, Darwin's theory "adopts a purely nominalistic doctrine that views living things as nothing but accidental variations within a continuous fitness landscape and admits of no natural kinds." In other words, with the death of transcendental realism and the triumph of nominalism came an end to any notion of transcendent archetypes. Remember, the fulcrum of Luther's rebellion was over this very point. The rest is just commentary -- or the drawing out of the ineluctable consequences that follow.
I'm sure this isn't very clear to most readers, but don't worry, it will be before we're finished with this series of posts. But one of the most important consequences that follows the banishment of universals is the end of formal and final causation. If there are no transcendent archetypes -- which there cannot be under nominalism -- then there can be no formal and final causation, since they limit God's absolute omnipotence.
So this is just one of the -- in my mind -- bad things that was ushered in with the good of the nominalist revolution. The problem is that formal and final causation most assuredly exist, and that the world becomes literally unintelligible in their absence. Scientism only pretends to do without them.
But Luther had no interest whatsoever in whether or not the world was intelligible. Rather, his only concern was man's salvation, in part because he was convinced that he was living in the End Times, so that understanding the world was just a vain distraction. Furthermore, it was the height of prideful arrogance to imagine that humans could understand God's creation, again, because God is radically transcendent and omnipotent, and subject to no man's understanding (outside revelation), which amounts to a restriction on God's activity. Again, if God can do whatever he wants whenever he wants, who is the scientist to think that he can place limits on Him with his equations and instruments?
Note that of the four types of causation -- material, efficient, formal and final -- the first two are wholly immanent, or horizontal, while the second two are transcendent, or vertical. Here again you see that the nominalist revolution, by banishing formal and final causation, set the stage for the wholly immanent philosophy of ideological Darwinism, or just of materialism in general.
For materialism is one of the possible philosophical reactions to a senseless world devoid of formal or final causation. Literal creationism is another. The irony is again that Darwinism and creationism are not "opposites," but kissing cousins, just two possible responses to the modern rejection of the transcendentals that make the world intelligible.
Gilson brings out another fascinating irony -- and something that I've discussed in the past -- and that is that Darwinism is not only "anti-evolutionary," but that it renders evolution strictly impossible. The concept of evolution was around long prior to Darwin, and in fact, he didn't even mention the word in the first five editions of The Origin of Species. But Darwinians eventually hijacked and redefined the word, identical to how illiberal neo-Marxists hijacked and redefined "liberal."
The original meaning of the term "evolution" had to do with intelligible development -- for example, the manner in which the seed develops into the tree. Somehow the tree is "involved" in the seed, and the seed "evolves" into the tree. Thus, one could not speak of evolution without bringing in formal and final causation.
But this is the exact opposite of what Darwin believed. As Gilson explains, "Nothing is less like Darwin's doctrine than the idea that new species should be already present in their ancestors, from which they only have to evolve in the course of time." Therefore, Darwinian change does not disclose anything intelligible at all, for it is completely horizontal, just one meaningless change after another.
As Gilson correctly notes, "The human mind can grasp only that which is intelligible." Thus, "the meaning of absolutely directionless, meaningless, purposeless Darwinian change cannot really be grasped -- there is no meaning in such an alleged process, and thus no intelligibility." In the absence of an ordered framework -- which immediately implies transcendence and finality -- "pure chance or disorder is not something the mind can really know."
This is precisely what I mean when I say that man can explain much more about Darwinism than Darwinism can explain about man, for to even say the word "truth" is to have transcended the meaninglessness of Darwinian change (not evolution).
Again, as I have posted about before, actual evolution -- as opposed to meaningless change -- is only possible within a religious framework, but only then within a framework that restores formal and final causation, and undoes the nominalist revolution that ushered in modernity. This revolution -- and I'll get more deeply into this tomorrow -- virtually destroyed the religious intellect (emphasizing instead only faith), leaving the field open to the vulgar scientism that dominates culture today.
As Schönberg describes it, "the world is full of people who believe in God, but is almost bereft of people who believe in the full power of human reason." But Pope Benedict has called for an end to this "self-limitation of reason" and for a "rebirth of philosophy" that would vault man back to where he properly belongs, beyond the artificial constraints of a nominalistic scientism through which man has perfected crawling while forgetting how to fly.