A letter in the 10 to 16 August edition of The Southern Cross (a South African Catholic newspaper) from Pat Dacey of Johannesburg entitled ‘Darwin’s contribution to humanity’, expounds the virtues of Charles Darwin. It really would be interesting to learn what prompted this contribution – unfortunately that important piece of information was not revealed. That’s a pity because knowing what was on Pat’s mind would clarify WHAT contributions these were, other than the anti-religious hypothesis on the origin of man!
I don’t know what it is about Darwinism that has such a hold over contemporary society; perhaps man’s innate and prideful desire to be master of his own destiny? Don’t get me wrong, in my Thomistic mind evolution in some manner or form is the means by which creation has moved forward, that much is evident in scientific fact! Evolution from the propitious result of a ‘First Cause’, if you like. Unfortunately, Darwinism posits, a priori, that there is NO God; that a god is irrelevant in the greater scheme of things! In fact, it becomes such a priority to enforce this starting point that empirical standards, so prized in the scientific world, are at best compromised and in many instances, completely disregarded.
Pat does, however, aver to a basic truth which, regrettably, is ignored by many writers and academics in an effort to promote their own agendas! Science describes the material world; it must not and cannot describe the metaphysical. It cannot answer the ontological questions, ‘Why are we here?’, ‘How did we get here?’ and so forth – these are questions reserved for investigation in the realm of the philosopher. Likewise, philosophers must steer clear of the exactitudes of science where empiricism rules! When one discipline tries to engage in the proficiency of the other, then misunderstanding reigns! Put simply, philosophy deals with questions that cannot be answered by observation or experiment. Science is the systematic method of acquiring knowledge based on observation and experiment and as the saying goes, “Never the twain shall meet”.1
If, as Pat puts forward, Charles Darwin was acting purely as a scientist and had no metaphysical agenda, then Darwin would be true to his calling – unfortunately I don’t think this is the case.
Catholicism has nothing to fear from a science conducted within the bounds of its own mandate.