Evolutionism: Just Another Old Materialistic Philosophical Theory?

Evolutionism: Just Another Old Materialistic Philosophical Theory?

While many try to frame the evolution as a purely natural process that explains the origins of the universe, they do not see all the implications of that position.

They fail to realize that, at least in its Darwinian version, evolutionism is above all a philosophical doctrine or belief since it aims to demonstrate that the existence of an orderly universe and intelligent life on earth does not require the action of an intelligent and ordering being, or a pre-established plan.

To do this, evolutionists ironically do not even explain the origins of the universe since they must shift the focus of their study away from creation properly speaking, that is, the passage from non-being to being. They can only deal with a process of transformation that supposedly changed simple pre-existing elements into more complex ones which in turn gave rise to the universe and life as now known.

In short, evolution does not address creation properly speaking but rather the transformation that creation supposedly underwent. It has nothing to do, therefore, with the act of creation but rather with a process of transformation.

A Product of Chance

The agent or force that purportedly drives this transforming action is nothing but mere chance, which supposedly guides evolution so that mutations will always have the same direction, unity of action, and finality. The universe, in all its complexity, is the end result of this evolutionary process, and the same can be said of human intelligence, also the fruit of an endless series of fortuitous events.

A synthesis of this theory was presented by 38 Nobel Prize winners, including several scientists, in a position paper defending Darwinian evolution.

On September 9, 2005 they sent a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education saying:

We, Nobel Laureates, are writing in defense of science …. [and] urge the Kansas State Board of Education to maintain Darwinian evolution as the sole curriculum and science standard in the State of Kansas.

They then define what they understand by Darwinian evolution:

[E]volution is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection.1

What Normally Occurs is Not Due to Chance

Replacing God the Creator with mere chance is not new. This has been tried by all materialists throughout history.

Already in ancient Greece, philosophical schools of the atomists and mechanicists2 presented chance and necessity as the causes of creation.

Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) refuted those theories when he contended:

Yet it is impossible that this should be the true view. For teeth and all other natural things either invariably or normally come about in a given way; but of not one of the results of chance or spontaneity is this true. We do not ascribe to chance or mere coincidence the frequency of rain in winter, but frequent rain in summer we do;3 nor heat in the dog-days, but only if we have it in winter. If then, it is agreed that things are either the result of coincidence or for an end, and these cannot be the result of coincidence or spontaneity, it follows that they must be for an end; and that such things are all due to nature even the champions of the theory which is before us would agree. Therefore action for an end is present in things which come to be and are by nature.4

The Role of Divine Providence

Saint Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of all Christian philosophers, in his Disputed Questions on Truth (De Veritate), takes the arguments yet further when he complements Aristotle’s explanation with the notion of divine Providence.

His argumentation is so clear and accessible that it is better to simply transcribe it here with brief commentary rather than paraphrase it. The saint explains:

Some of the very ancient philosophers admitted only a material cause. Since they would not admit an efficient cause, they could not affirm the existence of an end, for an end is a cause only in so far as it moves the efficient cause.

Other and later philosophers admitted an efficient cause, but said nothing about a final cause. According to both schools, everything was necessarily caused by previously existing causes, material or efficient.

This position, however, was criticized by other philosophers on the following grounds. Material and efficient causes, as such, cause only the existence of their effects. They are not sufficient to produce goodness in them so that they be aptly disposed in themselves, so that they could continue to exist, and toward others so that they could help them. Heat, for example, of its very nature and of itself can break down other things, but this breaking down is good and helpful only if it happens up to a certain point and in a certain way. Consequently, if we do not admit that there exist in nature causes other than heat and similar agents, we cannot give any reason why things happen in a good and orderly way.

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In other words, matter and change are not in themselves enough to bring about meaningful change in a certain and orderly direction. The saint continues:

Moreover, whatever does not have a determinate cause happens by accident. Consequently, if the position mentioned above were true, all the harmony and usefulness found in things would be the result of chance. This was actually what Empedocles [492-432 BC] held. He asserted that it was by accident that the parts of animals came together in this way through friendship and this was his explanation of an animal and of a frequent occurrence.

This explanation, of course, is absurd, for those things that happen by chance, happen only rarely; we know from experience, however, that harmony and usefulness are found in nature either at all times or at least for the most part. This cannot be the result of mere chance; it must be because an end is intended. What lacks intellect or knowledge, however, cannot tend directly toward an end. It can do this only if someone else’s knowledge has established an end for it, and directs it to that end.

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Consequently, since natural things have no knowledge, there must be some previously existing intelligence directing them to an end, like an archer who gives a definite motion to an arrow so that it will will its way to a determined end. Now, the hit made by the arrow is said to be the work not of the arrow alone but also of the person who shot it. Similarly, philosophers call every work of nature the work of intelligence.

Consequently, the world is ruled by the providence of that intellect which gave this order to nature; and we may compare the providence by which God rules the world to the domestic foresight by which a man rules his family, or to the political foresight by which a ruler governs a city or a kingdom, and directs the acts of others to a definite end.5

Eternal Matter and Provident Chance

By seeking to eliminate a first, subsistent, eternal, omnipotent and wise cause, God, as the ultimate reason for all that exists, Darwinian evolution shifts, perhaps unwittingly, these divine characteristics to matter and chance.

Not willing to admit someone that creates matter, evolutionists must necessarily see matter in its simplest state, be it gaseous or even atomic, as something eternal, uncreated, and endowed with an almost infinite potential. They must also see chance as the agent that supposedly transforms this matter. Perhaps it would be better to say Chance with a capital “C,” as it has the characteristics of an intelligent being, much like the Demiurge featured in Gnostic theories.6

A Justification for Atheism and Class Struggle

Indeed, Darwinian evolution scorns any notion of finality, and therefore intelligibility in the universe. As such, it has been a most powerful factor paving the way to atheism.

Thus, it is easy to understand Karl Marx’s satisfaction on reading Darwin’s book The Origin of Species. In a letter of January 16, 1861 to socialist leader Ferdinand Lassale, Marx wrote:

Darwin’s work is most important and suits my purpose in that it provides a basis in natural science for the historical class struggle. One does, of course, have to put up with the clumsy English style of argument.

Despite all shortcomings, it is here that, for the first time, “teleology” in natural science is not only dealt a mortal blow but its rational meaning is empirically explained.7

Denying a final cause to the natural order of the universe makes it easy to make the same conclusion in political theory. Marx was rightly pleased by his discovery since, if history has no meaning or purpose, his dialectic materialism theory almost makes sense.

The scientific shortcomings of Darwin’s theory have long been debated. However, rarely are the philosophical implications of his theory discussed. Indeed, the philosophy of Darwinian evolutionism is but a rehashing of materialist philosophies of the past. However, rarely have the implications of a theory adapted itself so well to philosophical errors of the times. Rarely has materialism found such a fitting and ambiguous disguise. And that is where the danger lies.

Footnotes

  1. The Elie Wiesel Foundation For Humanity, Nobel Laureates Initiative, http://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache:cLOgl7T4Nw0J:media.ljworld.com/pdf/2005/09/15/nobel_letter.pdf+NOBEL+
    LAUREATES+INITIATIVE&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1
    .
  2. Doctrines put forth by Democritus (Abdera, Thrace 460 BC-370 BC) and Epicurus, who maintain that matter is formed of atoms that assemble in chance combinations and mechanical processes.
  3. “The climate in Greece is typical of the Mediterranean climate: mild and rainy winters, relatively warm and dry summers and, generally, extended periods of sunshine throughout most of the year.”
    (http://64.233.179.104/search?q=cache:YL0AApTQG4sJ:www.hnms.gr/hnms/english/meteorology/full_story_html%3F%26dr_url%3
    D%252Fdocs%252Fmisc%252FClimateOfGreece+greece+rain+period&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1
    ).
  4. Physics, II, 8-9. Madrid’s El País (Feb. 1, 2006) carries a new item that illustrates well what chance is: “In November of last year, a gardener trimming trees in El Retiro park in Madrid found a package of money hidden in a tree.”
  5. On Truth, question 5, art. 2.
  6. According to Gnostics, the Demiurge went on to create the visible universe, shaping, for to this end, the eternal Matter.
  7. Marx-Engels Correspondence 1861, Marx To Ferdinand Lassalle, in Berlin, Source: MECW, Volume 41, p. 245; First published: in F. Lassalle. Nachgelassene Briefe und Schriften, Stuttgart, 1922, MIA: Marxist Writers: Marx & Engels, (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1861/letters/61_01_16.htm.

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