I’ve picked back up on reading G.K. Chesterton’s paper on the philosophies of Thomas Aquinas. I had forgotten how good it is. The latest part that I was reading through talked about Aquinas’s idea of form. He makes the point that it’s the form that gives matter it’s identity instead of the matter itself. Here is how he explains it:
“But the form is the fact; it is that which makes a brick a brick, and a bust a bust, and not the shapeless and trampled clay of which either may be made. The stone that broke a statuette, in some Gothic niche, might have been itself a statuette; and under chemical analysis, the statuette is only a stone. But such a chemical analysis is entirely false as a philosophical analysis.”
–G.K. Chesterton, Thomas Aquinas
This is spot-on. Science can look at a statue and tell us what it’s physical constitution is, but it can’t tell us anything about it’s form. That’s not a scientific question. What’s scientific about telling us that it’s a statue. You don’t use science to come to that conclusion. You use a sort of philosophical and anthropological cognition, or even raw intuition. That’s why it’s so boring to watch these science shows on TV when they drag on about how some animal developed a certain feature because of something that happened to one of it’s ancient ancestors. You sit there wondering the whole time why your hearing this on a science show. It’s a very anthropological line of thinking, and anthropology is not a “hard” science. There is nothing repeatable or falsifiable about anthropology. It’s not that type of thing. Origin and form are better left off the table in the hard sciences.
The claim we hear from the evolution side all the time is that ID is not science because it deals with non-physical ideas about human origins. It’s true that science proper has nothing to say about human form, but it was the Darwinist camp who first decided that it did – not creationists. The moritorium on scientific explanations of formal emergence was imposed by the very people who initially tore that wall down. Pre-darwin science was a more true science in a lot of ways. It kept theories about form to a minimum, leaving that discussion to philosophers and theologians. It wasn’t until Darwin fired a shot over the bow of religion that metaphysically minded scientists began to research ways of falsifying macro-evolution. The bottom-line is that it’s perfectly reasonable for the philosopher to comment on scientific ideas when the scientist first challenges him on philosophical grounds.