Victor Reppert asks:

If God used an evolutionary process to create us, why did he do it that way?

Some notes:

1.) On the use of the word “create” see Brandon’s post here. Reppert no doubt means “create” as a synonym of “make”, but it’s crucial to use the word “create” properly, especially when the divine causality is in view. The distinction is relevant to Reppert’s question, since creation and generation are compatible, even though generation allows for chance and- in the measure that it does- it allows for bad luck. Reppert seems interested in the features of a natural process that seem to have arisen from bad luck (his example is weak back structure). What arises by creation, on the other hand, is not such that luck or chance can be involved in the process.

2.) I was interested by the phrase “the evolutionary process makes us”. Assume “us” means “we animals”. So taken, saying “evolution makes us” is like saying “the hydrological cycle makes roses”. One is speaking improperly in both cases: the process of rainfall, evaporation, condensation, etc is not explained by relating it to the roses blooming, even though it is the case that roses do bloom as a result of it; and in the same way, evolution is not an explanation of “us animals”- so far as we do not enter into an explanation of the evolutionary process. We are as accidental to the evolutionary process as yellow dandelions are to the process of evaporation. This kind of chance arises from mismatching the causes and effects.

Evolution doesn’t explain any species, but the multiplication of species over time, and this multiplication is itself a good. See here, along with the subsequent questions.

3.) More likely, by “us” he means “us human beings”. But everyone knows that human beings could not be made by an evolutionary process, since we have a formal part that cannot be the term of a natural generation and therefore requires creation in the strict sense of the term, as St. Thomas argues here and in many other places. Right?

Or are we just assuming from the beginning that there is nothing in man that cannot be explained by some natural process or another? If so, doesn’t the question presuppose that we are already conceding human nature to Naturalism?

4.) Some Thomists, faced with arguments like the above, want to divide the generation of the human body and the creation of the human soul. Something like this might be true, but it is more difficult than this. There is no human body without a human soul, except by sheer equivocation. We cannot answer without qualification whether evolution could generate a human body.

5.) De KoninckĀ  argues that there is a sense in which evolution does generate human beings. Generation of species is a sort of motion, and no motion can exist without some sort of immobile term. For a natural process, this would be a natural being wih an utterly immobile form. Man, so far as he is measured by the aevum, is such a term.

6.) Reppert’s “why” question is looking for some good or goal, which means we need to raise the question of what the goal of evolution is, and what a man is.

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2 Comments

  1. Joseph A. said,

    December 1, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    Your link in point 3 does not work.

    Further, I ask in 3 – isn’t the problem not whether a “natural process” “explains” some or all of human nature, but whether the appeal to the “natural process” is a complete explanation?

  2. December 1, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Well, one has to raise the question of what a human being is to answer any of these questions.


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