Jay Richards has posted On Mechanism: Response to Some Thomist Critics of Intelligent Design on the Evolution News and Views blog. Feel free to comment here.
Several “Thomist” critics of ID have claimed that ID is either committed to, entails, or somehow relates to what they consider an unsavory “mechanistic” philosophy. While a number of ID proponents have explicitly denied this, the details are somewhat complicated. So I’d like to respond to this critique at some length in a series of posts.
Orthodox Catholics have long opposed the overreaching of a “mechanical philosophy” that came to prominence in the seventeenth century with René Descartes (1596-1650) and Francis Bacon (1561-1626). Christoph Cardinal Schönborn calls mechanism “the dominant form of reductionism in science.” 1As critics of the Aristotelian philosophy that had come to dominate the thinking in medieval Europe, Descartes and Bacon banished formal and final causation from science for leading to dead ends and sterile explanations. Bacon continued to affirm that formal and final causes existed, while Descartes seemed to deny them altogether. In fact, Descartes departed so far from Aristotle’s “qualitative” way of describing the natural world that he reduced matter to mere extension. This foreshadowed a tendency in modern science to reduce every material object to mere quantity.