Thomas Aquinas on Evolution and Intelligent Design

Defining Terms

The biological literature about evolution amounts to thousands of books and papers published every year. There is also a significantly smaller number of publications by Thomists who try to show how evolutionary theory may be reconciled with Thomistic philosophy. But the common problem of both Thomistic and non-Thomistic literature is a lack of clear and consistent definitions of terms. Let’s look at just a couple of examples found in the Thomistic literature. One of the books says: “The task of evolutionary biology is to explain new species as arising out of earlier ones in the same way that mountains and lakes are explained as having arisen out of earlier geological formations.”1 Here biological evolution is compared to geological processes such Read More ›


Intelligent Design

The best place to find a correct definition of intelligent design is on the website created by the authors of this theory. Most of the critique filed against ID is based on “straw man” fallacies because it operates on an incorrect understanding of ID. Also, many Thomists accept a caricature of this theory propagated by popular media. Therefore, the first step in answering much of the criticism of ID is simply to obtain a correct understanding of ID. At intelligentdesign.org we read: Intelligent design refers to a scientific research program as well as a community of scientists, philosophers and other scholars who seek evidence of design in nature. The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe Read More ›


Biological Evolution

Evolution may be considered as a process occurring either in nature or in culture. In culture it is evolution of laws, languages, customs, arts, political systems, etc. In sum, evolution in culture applies to the changes in the sphere created by rational and typically human activity. And this is not the type of evolution we are concerned with. In nature we can speak about the evolution of the cosmos (cosmic evolution), which includes the development of planetary systems, the emergence of stars, etc. Chemical or biochemical evolution usually refers to processes of change allegedly responsible for the origin of life. But in the center of our interest is organic or biological evolution. Biological evolution is about changes in living beings. Read More ›


Microevolution

Microevolution is a process of change that is quite well documented by biological sciences. It involves adaptive changes in living beings that may happen because of various factors. These may include genetic mutations. One example is the resistance of bacteria to antibiotics which is produced through random mutations and natural selection. This kind of evolution does not affect the external form of an organism in any way. Another example is an adaptation of organisms to different environments. This kind of change may impinge quite dramatically upon the external look of an organism. It may, for example, produce different color of skin or fur, or longer fur or debilitated fur; it may influence the blood density, weight, size, or many other Read More ›


Macroevolution

Macroevolution, as typically understood, consists of three grand claims: First, that all organisms share common ancestry, i.e., all species, whether extant or extinct, branched out from one or a few ancestors in a distant past. This also means that all living beings are connected by the process of natural biological generation. Second, that the transformation of one species into another species is possible by means of natural generation. This means that an individual or a population of one type of organism can (and in fact will) change into an individual or population of a completely different type of organism, given enough time and other natural conditions (e.g., including mutations and selection pressure). Third, that the changes that have produced all Read More ›


Species

Evolutionists (such as Darwin and his followers) deny the existence of species or maintain that it is impossible to define species. But if this were the case, how could a book on the origin of species (including Darwin’s own work) make any sense? In fact evolutionists are incoherent in their adoption of the notion of species. Darwin had to deny the existence of species in order to introduce the idea of transformation of species. This is why he made such bold claims like “No line of demarcation can be drawn between species”.1 But in the course of his work he changes his mind without admitting it. Having said that species are indistinguishable he says that there are “true species” and Read More ›


Macroevolution and Darwinism

We said before that biological macroevolution comprises three grand claims about the biological realm. All three tell us “what would happen if evolution worked long enough”. These three grand claims describe the supposed effects of evolution rather than a mechanism or the way how evolution happens. We should therefore distinguish between the supposed effects of macroevolution and the biological mechanism that is supposed to produce those effects. The commonly adopted mechanism of evolution in biology is the neo-Darwinian one. It consists of two basic factors—random genetic mutations and natural selection. Mutations provide diversity from which selection chooses the “better adapted” traits and rejects the “worse adapted”. Only the mechanism of evolution is a proper object of scientific scrutiny. The grand Read More ›


Theistic Evolution

Biological macroevolution is a scientific theory aimed at explaining the origin of species. Many Christian scholars after Darwin asked if biological macroevolution is compatible with the Christian faith. Those who answered in a positive way never challenged the theory itself. Instead, they came up with the idea that God used evolution to produce species. Evolution was called a secondary cause of creation: As a carpenter uses saw and hammer to make a bench, God uses evolution to create biodiversity. Those scholars often distinguish between the mechanism of evolution and the effects in the form of different species. They say that the mechanism may change, in fact there may be even many different mechanisms of evolution, but the grand evolutionary claims Read More ›


Creation

Aquinas defines creation as not a change, but a simple emanation of being out of nothing. A thing may start to exist in two ways, either by creation or by a change, such as mutation, generation, or any type of movement. But creation has no movement. It is not a process. It is a simple emanation of being which is produced according to its entire substance. Hence, there are three characteristics of creation: (1) It is always a supernatural (and direct) act of God; (2) It is instantaneous and not continuous (not a process); (3) It does not involve any secondary causes. Evolution, in contrast, is: (1) natural; (2) a process (it is a change), and continuous, i.e., extended in Read More ›


Young Earth Creationism

Young earth creationism includes two basic tenets. The first tenet is that creation happened exactly according to the Biblical account. This means that species were created separately and no macroevolution took place. The second tenet is that the time-line of the natural history of the universe should be derived from the genealogies given in the Bible and the assumption that the days described in Genesis 1 are natural days, i.e., 24 hours. Consequently, the total history of the universe based on biblical genealogies is about six thousand years (though some proponents of YEC allow up to ten thousand). The contemporary form of YEC was crystallized when some Christian groups challenged Darwinian evolution in the early 20th century. Later, in the Read More ›


Progressive Creation

Progressive creation (PC), frequently known as old earth creationism (OEC), agrees with YEC regarding the historical interpretation of Genesis 1–3. Progressive creation also rejects macroevolution as an explanation for the origin of species. However, according to progressive creation the literal and historical interpretation of Genesis does not preclude the concept of “deep time.” The Biblical days can be interpreted as epochs. Consequently, progressive creation accepts all cosmic and geological evidence of “deep time”; however it rejects the theory of biological macroevolution as the explanation to the origin of species. Hence, progressive creation is congruent with all scientific data (in cosmology, geology and biology) although it rejects some scientific theories (i.e., interpretations of data such as the theory of biological macroevolution). Read More ›


“Evolutionary Creation”

“Evolutionary creation” is promoted by theistic (and Thomistic) evolutionists when they in fact mean theistic evolution. They believe that by putting together two contradictory terms they overcome the contradiction, or at least make theistic evolution less repulsive to traditional believers. But creation cannot be evolutionary, and evolution cannot be creative (in the theological sense), for the reasons mentioned above.


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