I am reading as many books as I can by Fr. Stanley Jaki, in preparation for my one-man show, Science and Religion, in which I will portray Fr. Jaki at the Portsmouth Institute Conference next June.
One of the fun things about reading Fr. Jaki is that he makes intriguing off-handed comments in all of his books that you wish he'd elaborate on more, but you find you have to read more of his books to get a sense of what he's saying.
Take this aside from his Miracles and Physics (Christendom Press, 1999)
Miracles should seem to abound even today except for those who take refuge in bad philosophy of which its present most fashionable kind is steeped in the cult of chance. Only they fail to give a definition of chance which is more satisfactory than the handy use of that word to cover-up one's ignorance.
What a great phrase - The Cult of Chance. Fr. Jaki means by this the devotion to Chance as the catch-all for materialists and agnostics and Darwinists, who ascribe to "mere chance" or the "random combination of matter" everything we see around us.
What causes evolution? Chance mutations. What causes consciousness in man? Chance chemistry and random firings of neurons. What determines our fate? Chance.
But Fr. Jaki tantalizes us with the implied challenge to define Chance. Jaki himself does not do so in the paragraph from which I quote. He merely points out that the idolators of the god Chance fail to define the word, using it as a catch-all, a buzz-word to cover ignorance.
In fact, it's worse than that. The acolytes of Chance are not merely using a word to cover what's missing in their thinking, they are making what's missing into what's there, into the source of all that's there.
So before you read further, accept Fr. Jaki's implied challenge. Define Chance.
Here's my own definition, an easy one, and one helped along by St. Thomas Aquinas and his meditations on Chance. And though it's a two-word definition, I think it's an accurate one - accurate enough to reveal the sleight-of-hand behind the Randomists, if we can coin a term for those who worship that which is Random.
The definition is this. Chance is unintended events.
Now the first thing to note about this definition is that it begs the question, "unintended by whom?" St. Thomas points out that strictly speaking nothing is "unintended" by God, for example. Nothing is outside of either His positive will or His permissive will.
But leaving God outside of the question, this definition would mean "unintended by man" or "unintended by any agent capable of intentionality".
When we roll the dice, for example, the result we get is determined - determined by a jumble of causes that we can not control. The jarring back and forth of the dice, the surface of the table they land on, the atmospheric pressure - thousands of causes will determine the number the dice display when their jarring ceases. But these causes are (practically speaking) beyond our control; thus the effect is beyond the scope of our intent.
We can know something about the probability of the event, based on a mathematical analysis of the history of previous roles of the dice, extrapolated into the future. But we can not intend the result of a particular number on the dice, the way we can intend to pick up a flower or pass the mustard to the person who asks for it. (If we could, we would clean up at Vegas). Events that we have willed to do (and that turn out the way we willed them) are not chance events. Events that are beyond our will - though caused by who knows what - are (from our perspective) chance events.
Defining Chance clearly, then, reveals something interesting.
What it reveals is that nothing can happen by chance.
What I mean when I say that nothing can happen by chance is that quite literally nothing can happen by the agency of or caused by chance - for the phrase "by chance" implies that Chance is an agent, that Chance does something.
Chance does nothing. Chance, in a sense, is nothing. Chance is our word for a lack of agency. To say, "This was caused by a lack of agency" is like saying "this was caused by a lack of cause". What we mean when we say "this happened by chance" is "this event was caused by something that is beyond the scope of our intent".
Chance thus refers to the event, not the cause, except insofar as the word refers to our lack of possible participation in the cause.
Of course this opens up the shady area of the intent of creatures without free will. When a tree moves nutrients throughout its structure, this movement is not an "unintended event", though assigning "intent" to a plant is stretching what that word typically means.
The point here, without going further, is simply that "chance" refers to results that happen outside of a perceived deliberate agency, and the hallmark of all living matter is a kind of intentionality or deliberate doing - so all events intended and caused by a living agent are not chance events.
Thus, to say that evolution is caused by random or chance mutations is simply to say that evolution is caused by nothing deliberate. And this is tantamount to saying, "We don't know what causes it".
But how many evolutionists are honest enough to say, "Evolution is our word for the slow development over the eons of living things from simplicity of form and function to complexity of form and function, and we have absolutely no idea what causes it." Instead you'll hear them gloat, "We all evolved by chance."
Thereby covering their ignorance with pride and making a Something out of nothing.