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Philosophy of Evolution: Anti-Mechanicism

The Scholastic Solutions


The Neo-Scholastics argue against Mechanicism.

Is there more than local motion? Are there intrinsic powers? Are the intrinsic powers distinct from mere local motion? If affirmative, living creatures are more than machines, and Mechanicism is not a sufficient explanation for Evolutionism.

Concerning the first question, are there are at least some "extrinsic" locomotive activities distinct from local motion? Yes, there is more activity than only extrinsic local motion in corporal bodies.50 One proof is the flight of an arrow which continues in motion even after it leaves the bow, when the extrinsic cause of projection ceases. Another proof cites the experience of local motion, and notes that its cause cannot be "other motion" because motion by definition is pure successive presence in space; so there is a cause of local motion distinct from the motion itself.

Concerning the second question, are there intrinsic locomotor forces? Yes, there are intrinsic locomotive powers.51 There are elastic forces, "intrinsic" and not merely passive, distinct from locomotion. There are forces of affinity, such as magnetic attraction of iron. There are forces of valence for the stable combination of protons and neutrons in the elements.

Concerning the third question, are there corporal activities which produce motion and are distinct from mere local motion?52 Yes, there are activities in corporal bodies, which even though they produce motion, are nevertheless "distinct" from mere locomotor powers. This is proved by the same facts that have been already mentioned, since elastic activity, magnetic affinity and valence, are all intrinsic forces distinct from motion itself. Further, these forces cannot be reduced to motion, since motion by definition is a successive progression in space, but elasticity, for example, has return to shape, indifferent to location in space.

Therefore, since the answer to all three questions is in the affirmative, then Evolutionism is incompatible with the theory that asserts these positions negatively, which is Mechanicism. Mechanicism is not an adequate theory to explain Evolutionism. Therefore, the answer to the general question whether Mechanicism can explain Evolutionism is in the negative.53

The proof of the thesis that Evolutionism is incompatible with Mechanisism can be stated syllogistically.

There is an argument from the Principle of Causality. The effect cannot be greater than the cause. Mechanicism (cause) cannot yield life (greater effect). Therefore, Mechanicism cannot be the cause of life.

The major premise of the above argument is the principle of causality. The minor premise is proved because if Mechanisism (cause) yield life (greater effect), it would follow (per absurdum) that all machines are alive. The minor premise is also proved metaphysically because the mechanical is dynamism by an external efficient cause, while life (by definition) is internal self-actuation. The conclusion follows that Mechanicism cannot yield life.


Author:  John Edward Mulvihill, S.T.D., D.Min., Ph.D.
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