Or have I missed something subtle in this piece about Intelligent Design? He seems to be arguing that we have “philosophical”, i.e mediaeval scholastic, knowledge of certain truths about the world, which take precedence over scientific understandings. For example, we know that the universe is the product of an intelligence not by faith — since that would imply that there was no warrant for the belief — nor by science — since science excludes, by its nature, any such teleology — but by philosophy and natural reason: the fact that we can understand the world proves that it was made by some other intelligent being. Intelligibility is a conversation. This argument apparently derives for Aquinas. I don’t find it
wholly convincing, but it’s certainly worth thinking about.
And he has a subtle and wholly defensible position on the two magisteria:
If the Darwinist, taking up Descartes’ and Bacon’s project of understanding nature according only to material and efficient causes, studies the history of living things and says that he can see no organizing, active principles of whole living substances (formal causes) and no real plan, purpose or design in living things (final causes), then I accept his report without surprise.
But then he has to go and spoil it by claiming that there is warrant for his philosophical intuition in the stories that modern biology tells:
“The Darwinian biologist looking at the history of life faces a precisely analogous question. If he takes a very narrow view of the supposedly random variation that meets his gaze, it may well be impossible to correlate it to anything interesting, and thus variation remains simply unintelligible. He then summarizes his ignorance of any pattern in variation by means of the rather respectable term ‘random.’ But if he steps back and looks at the sweep of life, he sees an obvious, indeed an overwhelming pattern. The variation that actually occurred in the history of life was exactly the sort needed to bring about the complete set of plants and animals that exist today. In particular, it was exactly the variation needed to give rise to an upward sweep of evolution resulting in human beings. If that is not a powerful and relevant correlation, then I don’t know what could count as evidence against actual randomness in the mind of an observer.”
But why does he suppose evolution has “an upward sweep” What on earth makes him suppose that the complete set of plants an animals living today — the overwhelming majority of animals nematode worms; the majority of living things being neither plants nor animals, but fungi and bacteria and possibly viruses — would make anyone think of purpose?
I think his argument could reasonably be reduced to this: because we are capable of experiencing and believing in God, God must exist — and have the qualities that the Catechism of the Catholic Church (which Schönborn edits) ascribes to Him. Richard Dawkins once dismissed a silliness by Hugh Montefiore as “the argument from episcopal incredulity”. Here we have, in a very pure form, something that looks like the argument from Archiepiscopal credulity.