Every agent acts for an end

Editorial, June 2009

It is a basic principle of reality that every agent acts for an end. Every moving thing is going somewhere—for example, every car on a busy highway is going to some destination. Sunday drivers are on the road to enjoy the sights.

Purposeful activity is either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intelligent beings like men and angels know their goals and select them. Brute animals without reason strive for definite goals—to eat and to generate—but those goals are given to them by nature—they do not freely choose them. Animals always act in certain definite ways depending on their nature and instinct, unless impeded by some other cause.

The elements and plants act for an end, but they do not know it and so it is extrinsic to them. It comes from nature or natural instinct. We know their activity is purposeful because it is consistent. Thus, the elements always act the same way in the same circumstances. It is because of this that science is possible and so the scientist can predict how things will act in the future. If this were not certain, then there could be no science and no automobiles, airplanes, or tools.

Therefore there is no such thing as purposeless activity. “Chance” means that two or more purposeful actions meet unexpectedly. Thus, a car moving south accidentally collides with another car going west—both have a definite goal but did not intend to meet each other at that point. The result—the accident—is bad but it was not intended.

Because every agent acts for an end, therefore, there is no such thing as “random” activity in nature, that is, activity with no purpose. Therefore Darwin’s principle of random mutations in nature that, according to him, result in higher forms of beings—from living cell to simple animals to more complex animals and finally to man—is impossible. What I am referring to is the position of evolutionists regarding a progression from non-living to living, and from simple living things to more complex animals.  If there is a change, it is for the worse since the effect cannot be greater than the cause.

My argument is not against what is known as “microevolution,” that is, small changes within the same species.  Thus, there are hundreds of different kinds of apples and cats and dogs.  Some birds of the same species may grow a longer beak or change color or develop other accidental differences, but they are still birds.

After thousands of experiments by scientists, trying to prove the theory of evolution, there is not one example of a “leap” from one species to another. Fruit flies may be manipulated to grow extra eyes or legs but they are still fruit flies—they don’t’ become bees or humming birds.  Going from one species to another is called “macroevolution.”  In spite of all the famous scientists who claim that evolution is a fact, they have not yet been able to prove that one species evolves or changes into another.  There are no examples of a bear leaping into the ocean and turning into a whale.  Therefore the various species are fixed or constant.

The evolutionists claim that these changes take millions or billions of years and that only the fittest survive. But if evolution were true, then there should be thousands of examples of transitional species changing into something else. There are none.

We who believe in God know that he is the Creator of all things—of heaven and earth and that he governs all things by his providence.  If some macroevolution did actually take place, which I doubt because there is no proof, then it was planned by God and the power of development was given by him to the elements and the animals (see St. Thomas, S.Th. Q. 103, a.3).

Why do intelligent men and women embrace the philosophical theory of evolution when there is no clear evidence to support it? Certainly, it is not a scientific theory since it cannot be demonstrated in a laboratory or by experiment. Therefore it is a secular faith and religion. The main reason, it seems to me, is atheism. Darwin and most of the famous proponents of this theory were and are atheists and materialists—they deny the existence of a Creator God. But purpose or finality in the world is obvious to anyone who studies it. So it has to be explained—there must be a reason for it.

Christians say the finality was put into things by God who created them. The atheists say it happened by “chance” and “natural selection.”  Atheists need evolution in order to explain finality in nature without a Creator. One of them said that evolution is the “engine of atheism,” that is, the theory of evolution enables the atheist to explain finality in nature without God. It seems to me that the evolutionary house of cards is blown away by the basic principle that every agent acts for an end.

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ About Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ

Fr. Kenneth Baker, SJ, is editor emeritus of HPR, having served as editor for over 30 years. He is the author of the best selling Fundamentals of Catholicism (three volumes) and of the popular introduction to the Scripture, Inside the Bible.